In 2015 the Carolina Panthers went to the Super Bowl, but they haven’t been close since. Now almost none of those pieces from 2015 remain in Carolina. Greg Olsen is in Seattle, Cam is in New England, and Luke Kuechly just retired. With their restart now beginning there are many questions for Matt Rhule and others in Carolina. However, the most important question is if they can improve from their 5-11 record last year. Let’s take a look at what the Carolina Panthers have in store for training camp in 2020.
3 Position Battles To Watch:
Quarterback: P.J. Walker, Teddy Bridgewater
With Cam Newton gone a new face will have to step up in Carolina. Teddy Bridgewater was signed to fill this hole and is expected to start. In 2019, while with the Saints, Bridgewater made a splash replacing the injured Drew Brees. However, without an elite receiver, Michel Thomas, to throw to some speculate that Bridgewater may struggle. The other QB the Panthers added is XFL MVP P.J. Walker. Prior to being the MVP of the XFL, P.J. Walker was on the practice squad of the Indianapolis Colts. While in the XFL, Walker has a QB rating of 105 and punished teams with his arm and his legs. Although Bridgewater is the assumed starter week 1, Walker could come up and upset Bridgewater if he plays well enough.
Edge: Yetur Gross-Matos, Stephen Weatherly, Efe Obada
Brian Burns had an excellent rookie season and will start as an edge rusher. However, it is uncertain who will play on the opposite side of Burns. Yetur Gross-Matos out of Penn State is expected to start but it is not guaranteed for him. Matos will have to compete against 5-year veteran Stephen Weatherly and role player Efe Obada. Last year Weatherly only recorded 3 sacks and 1 forced fumble, while Obada did not record any stat except 24 tackles. Matos is almost guaranteed to start, unless wither Weatherly or Obada is able to improve and prove their worth in the preseason.
Strong Safety: Justin Burris, Jeremy Chinn
The Carolina Panthers brought back Tre Boston to play free safety. This however leaves the strong safety position open for competition. The Panthers selected Jeremy Chinn in the 2nd round of the 2020 draft. Chinn was excellent at the combine and has optimum size and strength for a defensive back. The Panthers also signed Justin Burris in the offseason. At the Browns last year, Burris has 2 INTs and 7 passes defended. Chin and Burris will have to compete in the offseason to see who will start, and who will be the rotational player.
Ready To Break Out: Brian Burns
Edge rusher Brian Burns had a respectable rookie season in 2019. The former 1st round pick recorded 7.5 sacks and 23 pressures on 478 snaps last year. Now that the veteran edge rushers have left Carolina, Burns will start. With his elite speed, Burns can make an impression, and pressure offensive lines well. However, he lacked strength and stamina to start in 2019. Burns will have to become accustomed to the extra snaps that he will have to receive in 2020. Once he does this, he can become an elite edge rusher.
Rookie To Watch: Yetur Gross-Matos
The Panthers selected Yetur Gross-Matos with their 2nd round pick in the 2020 Draft. While at Penn State Matos had 9 sacks and 14.5 tackles for loss in his final year. Coming onto a weakened and uncertain Panthers team Matos should bring some stability to the defensive front. Although he may not start immediately, once he gets into the rotation, he will be a threat on the edge of the line.
Fantasy Sleeper: Ian Thomas
Now that Greg Olsen is gone from the Panthers Ian Thomas is able to produce. In 2018, while replacing an injured Olsen Thomas was on pace for 787 yards, and 6TD season. Now that Thomas can start for a full season, he can produce solid numbers. However, I am not saying to draft Thomas as your TE1, as there are other options throughout the league that surpass Thomas. But once injures stack up, and substitutions are needed halfway through the season, Thomas can be a solid option.