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Carolina Panthers 2019 Season Preview

 By Stephen Waniewski

August 28, 2019

The 2019 season marks the 25th NFL tour for the Carolina Panthers franchise. Commonly referred to as the silver anniversary, 25 years is typically a point of reflection and celebration. Best believe the Panthers organization did a lot of reflecting following last year’s 7-9 record, which included a seven-game losing streak. Heading into the new season roster moves have been made, defensive alignments have been changed, and a cool new 25 seasons patch was added to the uniform. With a turbulent 2018 in the rearview mirror, the focus now shifts to celebrating year 25 with a silver Lombardi trophy. 

Cam Newton. Photo: Alex Cason for CLTure

Offense: This Panthers offense is fast and loaded with talent. Having a wealth of playmakers at RB, WR, and TE should allow Norv Turner’s playbook to shine. Expect big stats from several players if QB1 can spread the ball around and the squad can stay healthy. 

Quarterback: For another year, Cam Newton’s shoulder has all the attention and now, it’s his foot. Last season can be split in half. When QB1 was healthy, the Panthers won seven of the first eight games, with Cam throwing 15 TDs to just 4 INTs. The following eight games, Newton played in six, yet was sacked 17 times. Clearly, as admitted by Newton, he couldn’t throw the ball beyond 30 yards. Newton’s lack of deep threat created an offense that was a one-dimensional sitting duck. If the shoulder is 100 percent and Cam can stretch the field the 2019 Panthers offense should light up the scoreboard. 

Christian McCaffrey. Photo: Alex Cason for CLTure

Running Backs: The second string running back position is one of the most contested spots on the roster. Obviously, Christian McCaffrey is the workhorse and will get a ton of touches, but depth is important during the season as well as in the red zone. Elijah Holyfield, Cameron Artis-Payne, and Jordan Scarlett are currently bottlenecked behind McCaffrey. Holyfield’s physical running style compliments the offense and could prove helpful in short yardage situations. Meanwhile, Artis-Payne is a roster Swiss Army knife; he has some offensive flash and plays special teams. 

Wide Receivers: The starters, DJ Moore and Curtis Samuel, are dynamic playmakers. Mixing them in with CMC and Greg Olsen is a matchup nightmare for NFL defensive coordinators. With the addition of Chris Hogan brings valuable championship pedigree and depth to the group while Torrey Smith and Jarius Wright can still consistently contribute. 

Curtis Samuel and DJ Moore. Photo: Alex Cason for CLTure

Offensive Line: When your franchise QB returns from injury, the need to provide protection up front is imperative. Last year’s group was erratic and changes were essential. Stalwart Panthers lineman, Ryan Kalil, is gone. Meanwhile, Matt Paradis signed a big free agent deal and should seamlessly fit in at center. Furthermore, rookie second-round draft pick Greg Little is expected to step right in and compete for the left tackle position. On the right side, Trai Turner and Taylor Moton are rock solid. If Daryl Williams can stay healthy, the Panthers O-line could be a top ten unit. 

Ron Rivera. Photo: Alex Cason for CLTure

Defense: The 2019 Panthers defense has new faces and a new plan of attack. Fan favorites and future Hall of Honor legends, Julius Peppers and Thomas Davis, are gone. Meanwhile, the 3-4 defensive alignment is being introduced. That means Luke Kuechly isn’t technically in the middle all the time and a lot of pressure will come from standup edges who will also drop into pass coverage. A lot of pass rushing and run stopping should come from newcomer Gerald McCoy and the rotation of defensive linemen, which should hopefully lead to an easier time for the inconsistent secondary. Still, Carolina has a solid core and isn’t fully abandoning the familiar 4-3 scheme yet. One possible issue is how the team and coordinator Eric Washington will handle HC Ron Rivera continuing to call the defensive plays.

Defensive Line: Pro-Bowler Gerald McCoy looks to prove that Tampa Bay’s loss is most certainly Carolina’s gain. Along with McCoy, let’s not forget former Kawann Short and Dontari Poe. They make up a formidable front group that must stop the run as well as pressure the QB. Unfortunately, the new scheme exposes a lack of situational 3-4 awareness for this position group. Key reserve, Kyle Love, will likely have an even larger role than last year. Regardless, free-agent-to-be, Vernon Butler, will do his best to prove his worth. Butler, a former first rounder, has experience playing in the 3-4 front alignment while at La. Tech and needs a big season if he wants to stay in Carolina. Overall, if the Panthers want a playoff spot, the DL unit needs to quickly adapt to all the changes. 

Brian Burns. Photo: Alex Cason for CLTure

Linebackers: The 3-4 scheme will need Luke Kuechly and Shaq Thompson to be relevant all over the field. The two will provide more coverage than they’re accustomed to, in addition to their usual blitzing roles. In turn, Brian Burns and Bruce Irvin are expected to use their speed to rush the quarterback. Generally speaking, the linebacker group is the strength of the defense. [/caption]

Luke Kuechly. Photo: Alex Cason for CLTure

Defensive Backs: Secondary play was not a strength of the 2018 Carolina Panthers. The roster lacked quality depth and the unit only had 13 interceptions last year. They also allowed a dozen passing TDs of 20 yards or more, which was the most in the league. So, the team let veteran safety Mike Adams go and brought back former Thieves Ave. member, Tre Boston. In pairing Boston with Eric Reid, this safety duo is younger, bigger, faster, and should show noticeable improvement from last year. Cornerbacks Donte Jackson and James Bradberry now have a year together under their belt and are aware of higher expectations. The Panthers also hope the new addition of DB coach Perry Fewell will spark Jackson, who has all pro potential and should easily match last year’s total of four interceptions. Additional motivation: Bradberry has a contract negotiation approaching and a big year would lead to a big pay day. If the secondary makes the necessary improvements, the Panthers defense will be a force. 

Tre Boston. Photo: Alex Cason for CLTure

History has proven, if the Carolina Panthers have a down season, the next season tends to dramatically improve. Most notably, the 2014 season was a lame 7-8-1, but the following year, the 2015 Panthers went 15-1 with a Super Bowl appearance. Looking at the 2019 schedule, fifteen wins might seem unlikely. However, a divisional title would be a nice silver lining. 

Check out the full 2019 schedule for the Carolina Panthers.

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