Panthers News NFL: Carolina Panthers wide receiver Kelvin Benjamin enters training camp overweight.



Carolina Panthers 2017 Season Preview




Chris Ransom follow @DraftUtopia Posted on 7/15/2017.


Carolina Panthers Free Agency Recap


The Panthers picked up Matt Kalil as a starting left tackle and Dan France, Kirk Cousins blindside at Michigan State as a backup left tackle. Carolina also brought in former defensive end Julius Peppers as a Free Agent. Another former player they brought in was Captain Munnerlyn who I consider a nickel cornerback at best. Mike Adams from the Colts was probably their best signing on the secondary.



Carolina Panthers Draft Recap


Christian McCaffrey will begin the season as a #2 running back. He may not start right away over Jonathan Stewart, but I expect him to be Carolina's third down running back due to his superb blocking and pass catching. Curtis Samuel is expected to be a slot receiver. Taylor Moton, Carolina's second round pick that they got from the Kony Ealy pick with the Patriots is competing with two other right tackles for the right tackle job. In the end, I think Moton will be a depth player at both right guard and right tackle.




Carolina Panthers Quarterback Summary: Cam Newton was the best quarterback in the NFL two years ago up until Super Bowl 50. His multiple concussions in 2017 really played a role in how effective he was last season. Newton will be better this year, but I"m not sure he will flat out dominate like he did in 2015 though during his MVP season.


Mike Shula is Carolina's offensive coordinator, but he began Cam Newton's first two seasons as his quarterbacks coach before being promoted. Shula has future NFL head coach ability. We said the same thing about former defensive coordinator Sean McDermott before the Bills hired him as their head coach too. Former Miami Hurricanes quarterback Ken Dorsey managed to keep his quarterbacks coach job. Dorsey will be out if Newton does not get Carolina a ten win season.


Carolina Panthers Running Back Summary: Jonathan Stewart will lose his job if he doesn't stay healthy. Christian McCaffrey is a huge upgrade over Fozzy Whittaker or Cameron Artis-Payne. Whittaker got re-signed, but demoted to third string once McCaffrey was drafted. I think McCaffrey starts out as a third down back, but could be an every down player once Stewart gets injured. Running backs coach Jim Skipper enters his fourteenth season. He's one of the best and former offensive line coach John Matsko is the running game coordinator so this team knows how to churn out running backs while coaching them effectively. Matsko's run blocking scheme was a huge reason why Cam Newton dominated in 2015.


Carolina Panthers Wide Receiver Summary: Kelvin Benjamin will be Cam Newton's #1 target once again despite being overweight. Devin Funchess was a tight end at Michigan before he converted to wide receiver. Curtis Samuel was a running back at Ohio State, but he had more receiving yards than rushing yards which is why you can understand why he converted to wide receiver. There isn't any depth behind those three wide receivers. I can see multiple wide receivers being drafted in 2018 if these targets don't step up for Cam Newton this year.


Lance Taylor is back as a wide receivers coach for Carolina. Taylor was the wide receivers coach on the 12-4 Carolina team in 2013-2014. Then he left the team to be a running backs coach at Stanford where he developed Christian McCaffrey.


Carolina Panthers Tight End Summary: Carolina may not have a very good tight ends coach. Greg Olsen probably has the best work ethic and composure of any tight end in the NFL. He was the first Panthers tight end to have three consecutive seasons with 1,000 receiving yards. Olsen is probably the safest target that Cam Newton has at the moment.


Carolina Panthers Offensive Line Summary: Matt Kalil is now Carolina's blindside. Having an itnerior offensive line with Andrew Norwell at left guard, Ryan Kalil at center and Trai Turner at right guard. Carolina has Daryl Williams and Taylor Moton pushing to be the starting right tackle after the release of Michael Oher.


One issue Carolina had was depth at offensive tackle. This team was screwed when Michael Oher got injured because Mike Remmers a below average right tackle had to move over to left tackle. That won't be an issue this year. Dan France was Cousins blindside at Michigan State, but both the Bengals and Browns cut him since they thought he was a practice squad player at best. You also got two right tackles for depth depending on whether Williams or Moton wins that right tackle job. Last years offensive tackles on this team are as good as gone.


Amini Silatolu, Gino Gradkowski, and Chris Scott are great depth players on the interior offensive line. The lack of depth on the offensive line absolutely killed Carolina last year and they appear to have corrected that this season.


Ray Brown enters his second year as the offensive line coach. Brown had to deal with a ton of injuries in his first season so he needs to do a better job this year after being John Matsko's assistant at one point.


The Panthers were 15th in points per game in 2016. after being first in points per game in 2015. The Panthers' were 19th in total yards, 21st in passing yards, and 10th in rushing yards in 2016 after being 2nd in rushing yards in 2015. Carolina has usually been a run first team so the McCaffrey pick makes sense when you look at the fact that Carolina's running backs that replaced DeAngelo Williams were short-term assets. McCaffrey may be able to become a long-term starter in Carolina if Stewart gets injured.



Carolina Panthers Defensive Line Summary: Carolina got Julius Peppers as their 4-3 right end who is returning to Carolina. Charles Johnson compliments him at 4-3 left end. You also have Mario Addison last years backup 4-3 right end that led the team in sacks along with Daeshon Hall as a backup 4-3 left end. Carolina has that same depth at defensive end that they had two years ago when they made Super Bowl 50. The Panthers have more depth than ever at defensive tackle though with 2013 draft picks Star Lotulelei their first round pick from Utah and Kawaan Short their 2013 second round pick from Purdue as starters. Carolina wisely picked up Lotulelei's fifth year player option, and they extended Short so 2016 first round pick Vernon Butler will probably wait another year to start.


Eric Washington is one of the NFL's best defensive line coaches. Even after Julius Peppers and Greg Hardy left the Panthers, he still adapted. Washington has a lot more depth this year so expect Carolina to get after the quarterback a lot this season.


Carolina Panthers Linebacker Summary: Carolina has Thomas Davis at 4-3 right outside linebacker, Luke Kuechly at 4-3 middle linebacker, and Shaq Lawson their 2015 first round pick at 4-3 left outside linebacker. Carolina does not have the linebacker depth it had the last two years so that could be an issue if any of their three linebackers get injured.


Carolina has two coaches that can develop linebackers. Head coach Ron Rivera and linebackers coach Al Holcomb. That's the biggest reason the Panthers put a huge emphasis on linebackers because they know they can develop guys at those positions who play well.


Carolina Panthers Defensive Backs Summary: Captain Munnerlyn is a nickel corner at best. It baffles me why he got a four year contract. Guys like Julio Jones, Mike Evans, and Michael Thomas will torch this guy. Munnerlyn was great next to Josh Norman back in the day, but that was around 2012-2013 when the only receiver in that division who was a big target threat was Julio Jones and that was a guy Norman mainly focused on.


James Bradberry is being moved from field cornerback to boundary cornerback. This shows me Carolina may not have faith in Bradberry as a #1 corner, but still believes he could be a good #2 corner at the boundary. Daryl Worley who played boundary cornerback as a rookie got bumped down to nickel cornerback. Worley got burned on tape quite frequently at West Virginia and struggled as a rookie so that doesn't surprise me as much. Cornerback is another position that the Panthers may upgrade in the 2018 NFL Draft if Munnerlyn struggles.


Mike Adams the Colts strong safety from last year is complimenting Kurt Coleman. This safety tandem can be much better. Carolina's safeties may be able to keep them in games.


Steve Wilks is Carolina's defensive backs coach. He manages coverage schemes for both the cornerbacks and safeties in practice plus he's Carolina's assistant head coach meaning he'd take over as an interim head coach for Ron Rivera. He got promoted from defensive backs coach to defensive coordinator. Now Wilks gets the chance to call plays.


Curtis Fuller was an assistant defensive backs coach to Steve Wilks for five years. He takes over as the defensive backs coach in 2017.


Carolina has a much better coaching staff than people realize. Wilks could end up getting a future head coaching gig like McDermott if he does well as a defensive coordinator this year.


The Panthers had an incredible defense last season Carolina was 2nd in sacks, 26th in points allowed, 21st total yards. The Panthers went from 11th to 29th after losing Josh Norman, Charles Tillman, and Cortland Finnegan. Carolina was 6th in run defense and should boast a top 5 run defense once again as long as all of their linebackers stay healthy.



Carolina Panthers Special Teams Summary: Graham Gano is a reliable kicker. They traded for Andy Lee at punter. Carolina lacks is going to use Fozzy Whittaker on special teams now with Jonathan Stewart and Christian McCaffrey getting a majority of the carries at running back now. Thomas McGaughey is the special teams coordinator.




Carolina Panthers Worst Case Scenario: The Panthers go 7-9 or 8-8 and finish last in the NFC South due inconsistent play at wide receiver and cornerback. They should improve on last years terrible season following a Super Bowl 50 loss to the Denver Broncos.


Carolina Panthers Best Case Scenario: Carolina goes 12-4 winning the division and getting home field once again. Carolina had this much depth two years ago and got home field at 15-1 with Josh Norman in his contract year. As far as the offensive and defensive line goes there is a lot more depth. At the same time, the cornerback play for the Panthers without Josh Norman is suspect.


Carolina Panthers 2017 NFL Schedule


Week
Date
Opponent
Time
Cable Network
Result
Week 1
September 10
AT
4:25 PM EST
FOX
W
Week 2
September 17
VS
1 PM EST
CBS
L
Week 3
September 24
VS
1 PM EST
FOX
W
Week 4
October 1
AT
1 PM EST
FOX
L
Week 5
October 8
AT
1 PM EST
FOX
W
Week 6
October 12
VS
8:25 PM EST
CBS
W
Week 7
October 22
AT
1 PM EST
FOX
W
Week 8
October 29
AT
1 PM EST
FOX
L
Week 9
November 5
VS
1 PM EST
FOX
W
Week 10
November 13
VS
8:30 PM EST
ESPN
W
Week 11
Bye Week
Week 12
November 26
AT
1 PM EST
FOX
W
Week 13
December 3
AT
1 PM EST
FOX
L
Week 14
December 10
VS
1 PM EST
FOX
W
Week 15
December 17
VS
1 PM EST
FOX
W
Week 16
December 24
VS
1 PM EST
FOX
L
Week 17
December 31
AT
1 PM EST
FOX
L


Carolina Panthers 2017 Projected Record (10-6): Last year I said the Panthers could win this division at 10-6. This year the NFC South will be much more competitive. Carolina may not even get a wild card game at 10-6. I really do believe the NFC will be pretty competitive so its a wait and see thing with me, but would not be one bit surprised if they returned to the NFL Playoffs in 2018.









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