Will the Carolina Panthers ever get back to a Super Bowl like they did in 2015? It almost seems like their run is over even though they made the playoffs in 2017 because of how inconsistent Cam Newton is on a week to week basis. We never know when good Cam is going to show up. Every other week we see bad Cameron which likely limits the Panthers overall ceiling but this is still a quality football team. The only real change in Carolina is the offensive coordinator spot where Norv Turner will replace Mike Shula who really did a pretty nice job getting the most out of Newton. What can we expect from the Carolina Panthers in 2018?
3 Position Battles To Watch:
1. Wide Receiver: DJ Moore, Torrey Smith, Devin Funchess, Curtis Samuel, Jarius Wright
UGLY. The Panthers traded the anemic Kelvin Benjamin and somehow this group got worse. I’m not sure DJ Moore will ever be anything more than a deep threat. I would have never taken him in the first round. I watched Maryland on more than one occasion and I honestly couldn’t remember who he was. Torrey Smith proved to be pretty washed proving almost nothing to the Eagles Super Bowl run. Devin Funchess still has trouble separating but is on the rise. He’s going to have to be a number one and could theoretically continue to improve after an 8 touchdown campaign in 2017. Curtis Samuel could be an X-Factor but I still think he needs to be a running back.
2. Defensive End: Julius Peppers, Mario Addison, Wes Horton, Daeshon Hall, Bryan Cox Jr.
The two thumpers in the middle of the defensive line (Dontari Poe & Kawaan Short) are going to bring it. The defensive end spot has more questions than answers. Sure, we know Julius Peppers can somehow play but he’s going to turn 39 in January. Peppers had 11 sacks in 2017 and he’s basically going to have to repeat that number because there’s a whole lot of nothing behind him. Mario Addison is a stud on the other side who matched his 11 sacks. It’s just the depth behind those two. Wes Horton? Both Bryan Cox Jr. and Daeshon Hall have to contribute.
3. Cornerback: James Bradberry, Captain Munnerlyn, Rashaan Gaulden, Ross Cockrell, Donte Jackson
Carolina still really misses Josh Norman. James Bradberry finally looks like he can play. The problem is they really have zero corners outside of him. The Captain is a good slot guy but nothing else. Donte Jackson and Rashaan Gaulden were drafted in the 2nd and third round this year. Jackson is a small corner who runs really well but actually plays like he’s 6-foot-2 instead of 5-foot-11, 174 pounds. I’m curious to see how he looks this preseason. Gaulden, I’m not fond of at all and probably needs to move to safety.
Ready To Breakout: Shaq Thompson
I’ve been waiting for Shaq Thompson to emerge as a force but it hasn’t happened thus far. Thompson first came on my radar as a former Red Sox draft pick which means he’s obviously a great athlete. Thompson played safety at the University of Washington where he obviously should be much faster at linebacker. Other converted safeties have translated well in the NFL but thus far Thompson has been nothing more than average. Luke Keuchly and Thomas Davis are as good as it gets. Now it’s Thompson’s turn.
Rookie To Watch: Ian Thomas
I hated this draft class. We talked about DJ Moore and Donte Jackson already. Ian Thomas showed an ability to block? That’s about all I have for you.
Fantasy Sleeper: Christian McCaffrey
The backfield is McCaffrey’s to take. Jonathan Stewart is gone and they really didn’t even try to replace him. Unless you believe in Cameron Artis-Payne, McCaffrey is going to get worked…a lot. It’s a make or break year for McCaffrey. We’re going to find out if McCaffrey can become an every-down back or whether he’s just a glorified slot receiver. The former Stanford product has to be better than his 3.7 yard per clip average in 2018, right?