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For a team that started out so strong last season, the Carolina Panthers sure ended poorly, third place in their division and questioning their franchise quarterback’s health.
Cam Newton has had surgery to repair his injured shoulder, but if he’s not ready to return by Week 1, the team may suffer a slow start the season, though his newly reinforced offensive line looks capable of protecting him.
With a new owner who made a vow not to ‘screw up’ the draft, the Panthers are counting on their offseason moves to right the ship, and we take a look at some of those and list the odds and predictions of Carolina’s upcoming season.
Looking for more offseason predictions and odds? Then take a look at the “Biggest Offseason Moves 2019” of the Houston Texans, San Francisco 49’ers, Jacksonville Jaguars, Minnesota Vikings, Pittsburgh Steelers, Dallas Cowboys, Green Bay Packers, Chicago Bears, Los Angeles Chargers, Indianapolis Colts, Cleveland Browns, Los Angeles Rams, New Orleans Saints, New England Patriots, Kansas City Chiefs.
The Carolina Panthers ended up third place in the NFC South after posting a 7-9 record in 2018, the fifth time during head coach Ron Rivera’s eight year tenure that the team has won just seven games or less.
The team started out the season strong with a 6-2 run, but after quarterback Cam Newton’s shoulder began to affect his ability to throw the ball downfield, the Panthers went into a 1-7 slump and eliminated themselves from the postseason early on.
Second year running back Christian McCaffrey got 326 touches for 1,965 yards from scrimmage and 13 touchdowns, showing soft hands and the ability to run the ball after the catch.
The one bright light in a mostly dismal season happened in Week 17 when the Panthers managed to crush division rivals (and playoff bound) New Orleans Saints in their own stadium by a score of 33-14.
After twelve seasons of playing center for the Panthers, the team that drafted him, leader and iron man center Ryan Kalil retired, requesting no fanfare as he ended his NFL career just as his latest contract was up.
The neck injury that limited his playing time in 2017 to just six games may have played a part in his departure, though for an offensive lineman to not only last but remain effective for a dozen seasons in such a brutal league is already quite impressive.
To fill the giant hole, general manager Marty Hurny signed free agent Matt Paradis who has the experience and leadership skills to effectively replace Kalil.
Retiring center Ryan Kalil (see above) has a younger brother in the NFL named Matt who plays offensive tackle.
Last season, the two Kalil brothers both played for the Panthers, becoming the third set of brothers to play on the same NFL line and the first pair to do it in almost a quarter of a century.
Matt was released by the Panthers in March and a week later was signed by the Houston Texans.
The Carolina Panthers finished 27th in sacks last season, with just 35 total, so getting an edge rusher to improve on that became an obvious offseason strategy for Hurny.
Signing defensive end (and longtime quarterback hunter) Bruce Irvin was Hurny’s first big move in that direction, and then he went even further by drafting linebacker Brian Burns of Florida State in the first round and linebacker Christian Miller in the fourth.
Another offseason goal was to keep Newton’s offensive line strong by bringing in a talented leader like Paradis and by re-signing tackle Daryl Williams, both part of a squad that hopes to equal or better last season’s sacks allowed total of 32, tied for sixth best in the league.
Not by a long shot is Newton finished, but he has tended to get banged up a lot as of late and is actually listed as questionable for Week 1 due to the shoulder injury (and subsequent surgery) that was preventing him from throwing the ball deep down the field.
Though Rivera is optimistic about Newton’s full recovery, the team needed to think about the future, and so with their third round pick (100th overall), they selected Will Grier of West Virginia who is used to multiple schemes so adapting to coordinator Norv Tuner’s offensive scheme shouldn’t be a problem.
The preferable goal is for Newton to play at his pre-injury level, but if he can’t for whatever reason then Grier adds depth behind current backups Taylor Heinicke, who the Panthers picked up on waivers last season, and Kyle Allen, who was an undrafted free agent last year.
Offensive tackle Matt Kalil, who signed with the Houston Texans for a one-year, $7.5 million deal with $2.25 million of that guaranteed.
Outside linebacker Thomas Davis, who agreed to a two-year, $10.5 million deal with the Los Angeles Chargers, with $5.25 million of that guaranteed.
Wide receiver Devin Funchess, who signed a one-year deal with the Indianapolis Colts worth $10 million, with $7 million of that guaranteed.
Center Matt Paradis, who agreed to a three-year, $9 million deal with $12 million of that guaranteed.
Defensive end / outside linebacker Bruce Irvin, who signed a one-year deal worth $4 million, with $1.5 million of that money guaranteed.
Offensive tackle Daryl Williams, who was re-signed by the Panthers for one-year for $6 million, with $3 million of that guaranteed.
Offense: Tackle, wide receiver
Defense: Defensive line, edge rusher, defensive back
The Panthers ended up with 7 picks in the 2019 NFL Draft, and they were:
Over the last decade, the Carolina Panthers have been to the playoffs five times, including Super Bowl L in 2015 where, despite Newton being named the league MVP, they lost to Peyton Manning’s Denver Broncos by a score of 10-24.
Of the other four postseason runs this last decade, three were lost in the Divisional Playoff Game (2008, 2013, 2014) and in 2017 they lost in the Wild Card Game to the New Orleans Saints, 26-31.
The Panthers have been to only one other Big Game, which was Super Bowl XXXVIII in 2004, where they lost to a young Tom Brady’s New England Patriots 29-32.
The odds makers aren’t feeling it for the 2019 Carolina Panthers – they’re giving 19 other franchises better odds at winning it all.
Ten other NFC teams have a better shot at going to the Super Bowl, and to add insult to injury, the odds have it that the Panthers will be third place in the NFL South behind the Saints and the Falcons again.
But if it turns out that Newton is fully recovered and his newly adjusted offensive line keeps protecting him while the upgraded edge rushers keep the opposing teams off the field, then a long shot bet might be worth the risk, but that’s a lotta buts…
The 2019 Carolina Panthers will take part in the NFL International Series and participate in one of the five games being played in London and Mexico that are meant to boost the love of football outside of the U.S.
The Panthers will play the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium in London, England in Week 6 on October 13 at 9:30 a.m. ET.
Carolina will fortunately be able to recover from the difficult travel to and from Europe during the next week since they have a Week 7 bye and don’t play again until the October 27.
Is Newton’s shoulder back to healthy or will he have to continue to play differently, less dangerously, than how he used to?
Can the Panthers’ defense that was ranked 15th last season shut down quarterbacks more effectively or are the specialists they brought in too old and too young to do the job?
How much longer does Rivera and Newton have to prove they are still capable of getting Carolina to the postseason?
Everything depends on Cam’s shoulder – watch him in OTA’s and at training camp to see how he’s progressing.
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Mike Lukas is a retired standup comedian turned freelance writer now living in Dallas, Texas, originally from Cleveland, Ohio. His love for the game of football and all things Cleveland Browns turned Mike into a pro blogger years ago. Now Mike enjoys writing about all thirty-two NFL teams, hoping to help football gamblers gain a slight edge in their pursuit of the perfect wager. Email: [email protected]More info on Mike Lukas
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