The Carolina Panthers drafted six gamers over the weekend, down from the 11 they drafted in 2021.
Nonetheless, they felt like they completed the targets they set for the draft.
Left deal with and quarterback had been the Panthers’ greatest wants this offseason. While the thought stepping into was that they’d doubtless solely be capable of deal with one within the draft, issues fell their means.
Former N.C. State offensive deal with Ikem Ekwonu, who some pundits thought might go No. 1 general, fell to 6. And quarterback Matt Corral, who some thought would go late within the first spherical, fell to the third spherical because the Panthers traded as much as get him.
“It’s a rare time when you’re able to address need and take what we felt was the best player possible,” Panthers coach Matt Rhule mentioned Saturday. “We feel like we have a really deep team now.”
There are nonetheless some positions that Carolina want to deal with. Return specialist is now not certainly one of them. The Panthers signed three-time All-Pro Andre Roberts to a one-year deal Monday.
Training camp will resolve numerous these battles. And the Panthers might nonetheless use free company to fill its remaining holes. Considering that, here’s a projected depth chart for the 2022 season. (Players in italics had been simply drafted or are undrafted rookies signed this week.):
▪ Quarterback: Sam Darnold, Matt Corral, P.J. Walker, Davis Cheek
Darnold will enter coaching camp because the starter — and may start the season because the starter. Rhule recommended that ideally they’d wish to have Corral sit and be taught and develop behind Darnold earlier than having him play.
He pointed to cases of quarterbacks pressured to play earlier than they had been prepared who are actually struggling.
“Whenever that time is ready that he’s ready to play, he’ll get his opportunity,” Rhule mentioned of Corral. “He’s not walking in Day 1 as a starter. Sam is our starter. But we will compete.”
Darnold, for his half, will should be significantly better. He threw 9 touchdowns and 13 interceptions in 2021.
But there are some throughout the group who consider Darnold will enhance beneath new offensive coordinator Ben McAdoo and with a wholesome Christian McCaffrey.
The Panthers stored three quarterbacks on the roster final 12 months and can doubtless do the identical in 2022.
▪ Running again: Christian McCaffrey, D’Onta Foreman, Chuba Hubbard, Spencer Brown, Darius Bradwell, John Lovett. Fullback: Giovanni Ricci
The Panthers signed Foreman in free company this offseason, giving them the ability again they had been lacking final season to pair with the velocity they have already got. Foreman rushed 533 yards and three touchdowns final 12 months. He additionally supplies insurance coverage and one other again who can tackle the lead position if wanted.
The workforce needs McCaffrey wholesome. He’s missed 23 video games prior to now two seasons, together with 10 final 12 months.
Though Hubbard did a good job in aid, it was unreasonable to recommend he might make up for what the Panthers misplaced with out McCaffrey. The former All-Pro is the Panthers’ finest weapon and has the potential to go for 1,000 dashing yards and 1,000 receiving yards in any season.
▪ Wide receiver: DJ Moore, Robbie Anderson, Terrace Marshall, Brandon Zylstra, Rashard Higgins, Shi Smith, C.J. Saunders, Aaron Parker, Charleston Rambo, Andrew Parchment, Ra’Shaun Henry, Derek Wright, Talolo Limu-Jones
Moore bought paid this spring, and rightfully so. Despite not have a gradual quarterback, Moore has been constant. He completed 2021 along with his third consecutive 1,100-yard season.
Opposite of him, Robbie Anderson has to have a greater season. Anderson modified the spelling of his first title and is within the course of of adjusting his jersey quantity, in keeping with two workforce sources.
After recording a career-high 95 catches for 1,096 yards in 2020, Anderson had a big drop-off in manufacturing. He completed the 2021 season with 53 catches for a career-low 519 yards.
It’ll be incumbent upon McAdoo to determine how you can get probably the most out of Anderson’s talents whereas additionally getting Terrace Marshall Jr. concerned.
Adding Higgins ought to give the Panthers one other weapon.
▪ Tight finish: Ian Thomas, Tommy Tremble, Stephen Sullivan, Colin Thompson, Josh Babicz
Thomas bought paid like a starter this spring with a three-year, $16.5 million deal. And Tremble is a man the Panthers suppose has a shiny future. Both are good blockers.
But for the Panthers’ offense to excel, they’ll want extra from the tight ends as receivers. The two mixed for 38 catches for 368 yards and just one receiving landing in 2021. Thomas and Tremble needs to be higher this season.
And at 6-foot-5, 245 kilos, Sullivan has potential, too.
▪ Offensive line:
- LT: Ikem Ekwonu, Brady Christensen, Cam Erving, Austen Pleasants
- LG: Christensen, Michael Jordan, Dennis Daley, Pat Elflein
- C: Bradley Bozeman, Elflein, Sam Tecklenburg
- RG: Austin Corbett, Deonte Brown, Cade Mays
- RT: Taylor Moton, Erving, Christensen, Aaron Monteiro
The Panthers went into the offseason realizing they’d to enhance their offensive line, and so they did that, first including Corbett and Bozeman in free company, then drafting Ekwonu at No. 6.
Three of their starters from the 2021 season — Jordan, Erving, and Elflein — shall be major backups.
That may say extra about what the Panthers had been working with final season, but it surely additionally reveals that they’re deeper this 12 months.
Adding Ekwonu, a former offensive deal with at N.C. State, was a serious plus. Dubbed “The Pancake King,” Ekwonu was thought of the most effective offensive deal with within the draft.
He’s imply, gritty and performs with perspective. He’s the kind of participant offensive line coach James Campen mentioned he seems to be for in an offensive lineman. This unit ought to go from one of many worst final season to among the best. And Sam Darnold and Matt Corral ought to profit.
▪ Defensive line
- Defensive finish: Brian Burns, Yetur Gross-Matos, Marquis Haynes Sr., Austin Larkin, Amare Barno
- Defensive deal with: Derrick Brown, Matt Ioannidis, Bravvion Roy, Daviyon Nixon, Phil Hoskins, Jacob Tuioti-Mariner, Marquan McCall
Burns is coming off a Pro Bowl 12 months, the place he completed with 9 sacks in his third season. But who will step up reverse of him? That’s the largest query. Gross-Matos was a lot improved in Year 2 whereas taking part in each inside and outdoors. The Panthers will doubtless proceed to make the most of his versatility.
Haynes ought to get extra taking part in time with Haason Reddick’s departure. He regarded like a breakout candidate final preseason earlier than an damage slowed him.
And Barno, who ran a 4.37 within the 40-yard sprint on the NFL mix, has some constructive traits to sit up for.
Ionnidis was a superb veteran addition for a younger defensive deal with room that may doubtless proceed to enhance.
- WLB: Shaq Thompson, Julian Stanford, Azur Kamara, Isaiah Graham-Mobley
- MLB: Damien Wilson, Frankie Luvu, Kamal Martin
- SLB: Luvu, Corey Littleton, Brandon Smith, Khalan Tolson, Arron Mosby
Thompson is the chief on this unit. But depth stays a problem prefer it was in in 2020 and 2021. And with Wilson’s pending authorized matter by which he was charged with assault, it raises the query of whether or not Carolina ought to have a backup plan.
Luvu steps into the beginning position with Reddick’s departure. He made some large performs in restricted motion for the Panthers final season. With an expanded position, he ought to make an affect.
The Panthers are excessive on Smith, who they consider fell within the draft. The former Penn State linebacker, who’s 6-foot-3, 241 kilos, might even see some early motion as a rookie.
But the Panthers should look in free company for extra choices.
▪ Defensive backs
- CB: Donte Jackson, Jaycee Horn, C.J. Henderson, Keith Taylor, Rashaan Melvin, Stantley Thomas-Oliver, Troy Pride, Kalon Barnes, Chris Westry
- Nickel: Myles Hartsfield
- Strong Safety: Jeremy Chinn, Juston Burris, Sam Franklin
- Free Safety: Xavier Woods, Kenny Robinson, Sean Chandler
Cornerback is unquestionably the deepest place group for the Panthers, so it was considerably of a shock after they drafted Barnes.
But Barnes, who goes by the nickname “Boogie,” has observe star velocity. He ran a 4.22 within the 40-yard sprint on the mix, which was the quickest of anybody there.
Jackson bought paid this offseason. He and Horn needs to be a stable pair for the foreseeable future. The Panthers are hoping Henderson can proceed to develop and be a dependable choice as nicely.
At security, Woods was a superb addition. One of Carolina’s greatest weaknesses was its incapacity to create turnovers. Woods had three interceptions and two pressured fumbles final season. Defensive coordinator Phil Snow mentioned he hopes so as to add yet another security.
▪ Special groups
- PK: Zane Gonzalez
- P: Johnny Hekker
- LS: JJ Jansen, Thomas Fletcher
- KR/PR: Andre Roberts
With the addition of Hekker through the early levels of free company after which Roberts on Monday, the Panthers needs to be a lot improved on particular groups. Hekker may be thought of the most effective punter in NFL historical past. And Roberts, although 34, was an All-Pro return specialist in three of the final 4 seasons. He led the league in kick return yards in 2021.
Gonzalez, who’s coming back from an damage, is coming off a Pro Bowl-caliber 12 months the place he made 20 of twenty-two discipline targets.
It’ll be fascinating to see what occurs between Jansen, who continues to be dependable, and Fletcher, who the Panthers drafted within the sixth spherical final 12 months. The Panthers signed Jansen to a different one-year deal in February. Cutting him might save $920,000 in cap house.