Carolina Panthers Training Camp 2022 Preview
Does anyone know what is going on with this team? For the last 2 years, this team was thought to challenge for the top spot in the NFC South, and they….haven’t. Could this be the year? Unlikely with Tom Brady still in the division. The Panthers would settle for a playoff berth, though. Hell, they might even settle for being over .500 at this point. Can they turn it around this year, or is Matt Rhule on his way to being fired? Let’s look at some key position battles for the Panthers Training Camp this year.
3 Position Battles To Watch: QB (obviously), LB, CB
QBs: Baker Mayfield, Sam Darnold, Matt Corral, P.J. Walker
Let’s get the most interesting one out of the way in this Panthers training camp preview. After the Panthers traded for Baker Mayfield this offseason, it left more questions than answers. In 2021, the Panthers traded for Sam Darnold, who was a late 2021 6th rounder, and a 2nd and 4th rounder in the 2022 draft class. To raise more questions, with the Panther’s 2nd pick (which was in the 3rd round) of this draft, Carolina took Matt Corral. That’s a 5th round, 6th round, 2nd round, 4th round, and 3rd round pick for 3 QBs. What the hell is going on? The real question is who is going to start?
Matt Corral is the least likely. While he will still compete for the job and looked good at minicamp, with 2 QBs with more experience on the roster, it’s hard to imagine that Corral gets the nod after the Panthers traded so many draft picks to get these guys. So, he’s out.
Baker Mayfield or Sam Darnold? You’d have to think that the Panthers don’t even draft Matt Corral, much less trade for Baker Mayfield, if they were confident in Sam Darnold. Baker Mayfield didn’t have the best season, but he did play hurt for numerous games last season. If the Panthers were confident that Darnold was their guy for at least this year, they wouldn’t have traded for Mayfield. However, I will say that this will bring the competitiveness out of all 3 of these guys. Oh, PJ Walker? Yeah, that guy might be traded or cut. He might make the practice squad, but I don’t see where the Panthers need his services anymore.
Prediction: Baker Mayfield starts, but is on a short leash. Sam Darnold might start a few games, Matt Corral doesn’t see the field.
Shaq Thompson, Damien Wilson, Cory Littleton, Isaiah Graham-Mobley, Kamal Martin, Frankie Luvu, Brandon Smith, Julian Stanford
Shaq Thompson, Kamal Martin, Frankie Luvu, and Julian Stanford were all on the Panthers last year, but it was obvious that their contribution wasn’t enough. They signed Damien Wilson and Cory Littleton this year. They drafted Brandon Smith and signed UDFA Isaiah Graham-Mobley.
Cory Littleton and Damien Wilson are looking to start for the Panthers this year in this Panthers training camp preview. Littleton was underwhelming with the Raiders and often found himself outside the rotation. Damien Wilson had solid years with the Chiefs and a good year with the Jaguars. Both of these players are looking to lead a shaky LB core that has never recovered from losing Luke Kuechly. Brandon Smith should be a lock to make the team and possibly start as a 4th round rookie this year. Coming from the LB U of Penn State, there are high hopes for Smith. Isaiah Graham-Mobley is hopeful to make the team. After a solid year with Boston College, he is reported to be a leader and a locker room guy. Maybe he makes the team as a special team player.
Shaq Thompson and Frankie Luvu were the Panther’s biggest contributors at LB who came back this season. I have to think their spot is safe and assume backup roles with the Littleton, Wilson, and Smith additions. However, they do have a solid chance to start or still make an impact on the field.
Julian Stanford seems to be on the outside looking in to make the roster. He hasn’t made too much of an impact, so I wouldn’t hold out for him. Kamal Martin is another player that hasn’t made too much of an impact in his career, either. Kamal Martin is way younger, though. I think that if the Panthers have to choose between these two, Martin gets the nod.
Cory Littleton, Damien Wilson, Frankie Luvu, Shaq Thompson, Isaiah Graham-Mobley, Brandon Smith, Kamal Martin
Donte Jackson, Jaycee Horn, CJ Henderson, Rashaan Melvin, Myles Hartsfield, Keith Taylor Jr., Kalon Barnes, Chris Westry
I don’t see a lot of maneuvering with this group in the Panthers training camp, the biggest question might be who gets cut at the end. I think the CB 1-3 is set with Jackson, Horn, and Henderson. But, depending on how many CBs the Panthers decide to take, Melvin, Hartsfield, Taylor Jr., Barnes, and Westry might be fighting for 2-3 spots.
Rashaan Melvin, Myles Hartsfield, and Keith Taylor Jr. all played for the Panthers last year. Taylor Jr. was a rookie last year, I doubt the Panthers give up on him that easily. Myles Hartsfield is also fairly quite young and played better than Rashaan Melvin statistically. I think Hartsfield and Taylor Jr.’s spot is safe.
This leaves the last spot (maybe) to Chris Westry, rookie Kalon Barnes, and Melvin. I think Melvin is good as cut. In his limited action with the Ravens last year, Chris Westry made some production, but nothing that wows you, of course. If the Panthers only take 6 CBs, I think the last spot goes to Westry or Kalon Barnes. If they take 7, both make it.
Donte Jackson, Jaycee Horn, CJ Henderson, Myles Hartsfield, Keith Taylor Jr. Chris Westry, Kalon Barnes
Player To Watch: Terrace Marshall Jr.
After a lackluster year with the Panthers as a rookie, Terrace Marshall Jr. could be on his way to breaking out this year. Baker Mayfield might give him more looks this year so that Marshall can be the solid WR3 for the Panthers this year. Maybe Ben McAdoo can find looks for Marshall in the offense as well. The former 2nd round pick has some talent, let’s see if the situation on offense has improved enough for him to flourish.
This Panthers team isn’t going anywhere. There are better than the Falcons, but I also said that last year. Either way, I find it hard to believe that they compete for the NFC South crown or an NFC Playoff Berth. Hell, let’s just see how the QB situation works out. This will be interesting for the Panthers, for sure, in what could be Matt Rhule’s last chance with Carolina.