What is the biggest obstacle for the Panthers?
By: Jake Rajala
The Carolina Panthers may not have Riverboat Ron, but they have been really aggressive in the search for talent this offseason. The Panthers head coach Matt Rhule is clearly on the hot seat with a 10-23 NFL coaching record. Rhule will need to battle the storm and find a way to improve the Panthers from a wretched 2021 outcome. With that enunciated, I’m going to outline the specific challenges that lay ahead of CAR right now.
- Panthers pass rush
The Panthers will square off against Tom Brady twice and a Saints offense with a healthy Michael Thomas twice next season. It’s clear that the Panthers will need to be able to generate significant pass rush ability against divisional foes next season.
The Panthers were ranked 16th in sacks last season. Plus, their top 2021 pass rusher Haason Reddick (11 sacks in 2021) fled to Philly in free agency. It doesn’t matter if the Panthers can showcase an improved passing offense if they allow opposing QBs like Brady to drop 36.5 points a contest against them.
- Growth of the QB spot
I really don’t believe Rhule is going to hand the keys to the “good” QB Sam Darnold in 2022. If the Panthers are really desperate for QBs like Baker Mayfield, I expect them to target a QB with their first pick in the 2022 NFL draft. I believe Rhule faces a really high uphill battle in 2022. Although, if the Panthers can win 8+ games with a rookie QB and the QB is a strong OROY candidate, Rhule could be given another opportunity with the potential ascending Panthers in 2023.
- Healthy Christian McCaffrey
There is no question that Christian McCaffrey is the Panthers most talented profile. Unfortunately, CMAC has missed 23 games in the past two seasons combined. If the Panthers lose McCaffrey for five-plus games in 2022, it will be incredibly hard for the likely young Panthers QB to lead the Panthers to success. If CMAC is healthy and playing like a Top-5 RB with a “modest QB performance”, the Panthers could legitimately be a wild-card NFC team.