This NFC South Team Can Be Shocking
Last year, the Cincinnati Bengals put together an elite unit that, of course, ended up winning the AFC and losing to the Los Angeles Rams in the Super Bowl. But what made this so utterly shocking is that by almost every fan, analyst, and player’s standards, they were expected to be bottom of the barrel once again. They were seen as a team that was supposed to suck for one more year, then go out, draft another high-quality talent and contend in two to three years, but they jumped it.
They proved the timeline was faulty and went and dominated utterly out of the blue. Led by Joe Burrow and rookie standout Jamarr Chase it proved that with the right crew, anything was, in fact, possible to take down goliath after goliath. But I believe, this year, that team will be the Carolina Panthers.
The Carolina Panthers?
When I say they can do this, of course, take it with a grain of salt. The Panthers are a talented roster, loaded with an incredibly young, high-ceiling defense and many offensive playmakers. Now, people have been saying the Panthers had this potential for a little while now. When they received Sam Darnold in a trade with the Jets last year, people thought that this unit could take the next step and prove to be something special, and they were! Until Week Four.
The Carolina Panthers started the season 3-0 and looked extremely solid, their offense was working, and their defensive unit was working as intended with the ability to get to the quarterback and disrupt offenses. But, as the season progressed, we learned something truly disheartening about the Panthers: Sam Darnold isn’t good. The Panthers then finished the season 2-12 after their very promising start. They suffered multiple quarterback changes, including former XFL standout and then NFL signee PJ Walker and returning MVP Cam Newton; they signed him halfway through the season, probably only for publicity.
Why Did The Carolina Panthers Do Poorly Last Year?
Well, when a quarterback plays horribly, there are normally three main reasons. The first is that the weapons aren’t there. There are no talented wide receivers or creative running backs, and they have nowhere to get the football. The second is that the offensive line just straight-up was terrible. If your quarterback doesn’t have time to throw it or make the proper read, it will either end in a sack, a bad pass, or, if you are lucky, a throwaway. In their case, the third and true reason is that the QB isn’t cut out for the starting job. Sometimes they don’t translate well from college, and sometimes they play poorly. That is Sam Darnold.
But the reason they had faith in him at all was due to number two. When blaming a quarterback for poor play, people also look for scapegoats as a way to justify the quarterback’s poor play. According to PFF, the Panthers have had the 31st ranked offensive line for the last two seasons. That is abysmal as the only team worse is the Houston Texans. That is part of the reason why Sam Darnold was so bad as the starter, but as I previously said, he also played poorly.
So Why Are The Carolina Panthers Going To Be Better?
Well, when you have young talent on both sides of the ball, time tends to play a role in development. On the defensive side of the football, you have Brian Burns, Derrick Brown, and Yetur Gross-Matos. Two former first-round picks and a second-round pick, all with incredibly high ceilings, all working together. While the front seven is seen as their strongest point, their secondary is nothing to scoff at. They have, again, an incredibly young and talented trio that could prove to be dominant. Of course, I’m referring to Jaycee Horn, Jeremy Chinn, and CJ Henderson.
But they also made a few additions. During free agency, to help with depth and to help a few of the defensive linemen progress, they signed Matthew Ioannidis from Washington. They also brought in a few veteran interior offensive linemen to hopefully provide some stability to their line. But their two biggest moves had to have come in the draft. With the sixth pick, they selected Ikem Ekwonu from NC State. An absolute beast who is going to provide some much-needed size and strength that this team needs. The Carolina Panthers also selected Matt Corral in the third round out of Ole Miss.
Can They Do It?
Those two draft picks should be an absolute game-changer for the Panthers over the next few seasons. But, if they decide to play Corral, they could both be game-changers a lot sooner. Matt Corral has incredible potential coming out of Ole Miss, and if that offensive line provides the necessary protection, he could be dangerous. With a healthy Christian McCaffrey and DJ Moore also returning, this Panthers team’s sky is the limit. Don’t be surprised if the Panthers are contending a lot sooner rather than later.
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