Why Jim Harbaugh should go to the Carolina Panthers

Jim Harbaugh could find more success in Carolina

Jim Harbaugh has peaked in his time with the University of Michigan, as he exited a 2021 college football season with a record of 12-2 and an Orange Bowl appearance. It’s also worth mentioning that the Harbaugh-led Wolverines managed to edge out Ohio State University in a 42-27 thrashing of the rival, seventh-ranked squad.

We know Harbaugh has finally left his mark on the college football world. With that said, it appears that Harbaugh may take his talents elsewhere now that he’s on top of the rollercoaster in Michigan. Well, where could the former 49ers, Michigan, and Stanford coach take his talents? It appears that the Harbaugh twin could go back to his professional football coaching roots. 

According to The Athletic, there appears to be a real shot that the former NFL HC returns to the big league. Some have suggested that he could take over the reign in Las Vegas and NBC Chicago stated that Harbaugh “has really positive feelings” about the Bears.

It’s not clear if Chicago will realistically strike gold with the head coach, but it does seem like a logical fit. The Bears have a rookie quarterback with a lot of potential in Justin Fields. They also have significant talent on defense with All-Pro DE Khalil Mack and Pro Bowl snub Roquan Smith.

I can’t deny that the Bears fit well and seem to be a safe bet for landing the Big 10 coach. There are three reasons why they make sense. For 1. They will most likely have a head coaching opening. Second of all, they have the soon-to-be second-year QB Justin Fields. And the third reason would have to be there’s an emotional aspect for Harbaugh. Of course, the head coach played QB for the Bears in his NFL playing days.

Still, I believe there is a better fit talent-wise for Harbaugh and this said team could have a potential opening. This team is none other than the Carolina Panthers. I surely feel that Harbaugh would have more success and more robust, long-term potential with CAR.  

The future competitiveness of the NFC South should seem a lot more charming than that of the NFC North (even if it is dreadful now). In 2024, here is a realistic expectation of the NFC South QBs (excluding Carolina): 

Tampa Bay: Kyle Trask

New Orleans: Jameis Winston

Atlanta Falcons: a rookie or second-year QB

In the NFC North, the Packers could have their attractive ex in Aaron Rodgers for at least a few more seasons. Not to mention that he’s made it very clear that he owns the Bears. The Minnesota Vikings should be at least modest with a couple of holes filled plus the presence of two potential future Hall of Famers in Dalvin Cook and Justin Jefferson. The Lions have no light at the end of the tunnel, but they do fight hard. I will leave it there.

The South has firepower, but they have a few more wheelchairs via the age of the elite players. Let’s face it, Tom Brady and Gronk won’t be playing longer than a couple of seasons in the NFL. The Falcons will most likely have a new franchise QB in an offense missing Julio Jones and very likely Calvin Ridley. Then the Saints have Sean Payton, Alvin Kamara, but Cam Jordan, Demario Davis, and Malcolm Jenkins will all be 33+ years old next season. It’s not clear who the future QB will be and if Michael Thomas will be in the Big Easy with his rangy nature towards the team. Although, I do feel that the Saints have an optimistic long-term outlook if they properly address the QB situation this offseason.

The Panthers could dominate the South for years if they find a spark at QB around the talent they carry. They will honestly have a bit of a fixer-upper at their own QB situation. Although, it’s worth mentioning that Fields hasn’t been close to a proven first-round pick in Chi-town. But, the Panthers have a very impressive supporting cast around their QB situation. That’s why Harbaugh should also take his chances of finding the franchise QB in the Carolinas and not in the Windy City. 

Harbaugh could have one of the best all-purpose RBs in CMAC coming off of injury. He could rightfully help him return to being an OPOY type of back. He will at least have a season to experiment with him and see how explosive his ability post-injury is. The WR group is much more talented in CAR than Chicago, as well. Robby Anderson and D.J. Moore are arguably the most underrated WR duo in all of the league, while the two leading receivers for the Bears this season are RB David Montgomery and RB Khalil Herbert. Yes, you read that correctly. 

Harbaugh should ideally have his favorite landing spot in his head, but he could be surprised by another opening. If Rhule is really out (right after his OC), then Harbaugh could acknowledge the potential in CAR and be more intuitive by selecting the better strategic empty chair.

Trust in Joe Brady leading the Panthers offense

Panthers offense has scary potentian under Joe Brady

By: Brady Akins

Hiding in plain sight, smack in the middle of the busy streets of Charlotte, North Carolina, lays a gold mine untapped by many, but bountiful for a few.

Not a literal gold mine, no. Something much better. An offensive football gold mine that goes by the name ‘Carolina Panthers.’

This gold mine doesn’t have the reputation of the one in Kansas City, or attract as much attention as the one in Buffalo. But because of one man– that gold mine in Charlotte is set to become a hot commodity in a way that nobody can see coming.

That man is Joe Brady, the Carolina Panthers offensive coordinator.

Despite a quiet offensive season in 2020, this Panthers offense is taking significant strides to this point.

‘Quality’ of experience over ‘quantity’ of experience

Joe Brady’s career resume is short. Like, really short. 

Brady, the 31-year-old, did not get his shot to lend his aid to a football coaching staff until 2013 when the William & Mary wide receiver made the transition to William & Mary’s linebacker coach following his graduation. 

As the years progressed, Brady bounced from being a position coach on an FCS team to an assistant on an FBS team in Penn State to an offensive assistant in the NFL with the New Orleans Saints until 2018. 

Two more years brought about two new roles for Brady, with the young coach stopping off in Baton Rouge for a cup of coffee and a national championship for the LSU Tigers, piloted by what might be the greatest offense in college football history. There, Brady helped the team as the group’s passing game coordinator– but got his first shot to be the sole coordinator of an offense just last year, when the Carolina Panthers rolled the dice on the young up-and-comer.

Like I said, really short. 

But the more you dig into the shortlist of Brady’s accomplishments, the more a trend begins to emerge. Where ever the Panthers’ offensive coordinator goes, success tends to follow in his wake. 

It happened with the Saints, where New Orleans went from a 7-9 team the year prior to Brady’s arrival to an 11-5 NFC South Champion that finished fourth in points per game in his first year as an offensive assistant. In  2018, Brady’s last with the Saints, New Orleans managed to get even better– improving to 13-3 and placing third in the league in points per game.

It happened with the LSU Tigers, where a previously passable offense morphed into that aforementioned powerhouse seemingly overnight. A 2018 Tigers’ team that featured Joe Burrow, Ja’Marr Chase, Justin Jefferson, Terrace Marshall Jr., and Clyde Edwards-Helaire concluded the season averaging 32.4 points per game– 38th in the FBS. The next season, well, things got better.

In Brady’s first and final year with the Tigers, that middle-of-the-pack offense went from a group barely in the top 40 of college football to the highest-scoring offense, well, ever. No, seriously. LSU’s 726 total points in 2019 weren’t just good enough for tops in the FBS, but tops in FBS history. All with the same ‘good but not great’ core they had the season prior.

Joe Burrow became a Heisman-winning sensation in one offseason, Justin Jefferson and Ja’Marr Chase became sensations in the same time span, with both players finishing top three in receiving yards and receiving touchdowns, with Chase finishing fourth in yards per catch and Jefferson finishing the year first in total catches. 

And wouldn’t you know it, the Joe Brady effect carried over to the Panthers in 2020, as once again, Brady proved that he didn’t need much practice to nail what was essentially a brand new role. 

The team numbers won’t blow you away, but that’s kind of why this article needed to be written. Despite finishing 24th in points per game, despite seemingly stagnating in total yards per game, Brady’s offense flashed the potential to be a fantasy football goldmine heading into 2021. Consider the following two points.

Point #1: The Carolina Panthers did not receive much help on the offensive side of the ball in the 2020 offseason. In fact, Carolina made NFL history in the 2020 NFL Draft by becoming the first team in the modern draft era to only select players on the defensive side of the ball. 

You might think that would mean the Panthers took care of their offense through free agency. But, well, you would think incorrectly. Don’t feel bad– it happens to everyone.

Sure, Carolina brought in a starting quarterback and a wide receiver as free agents in 2020, a fact that, on a surface level, seems like a massive overhaul. That is, until, you realize the quarterback, Teddy Bridgewater, hadn’t been a Week One starter since 2016, and the receiver, Robby Anderson, hadn’t had a season with 1,000 yards or 65 catches in the history of Robby Anderson’s existence.

Point #2: The biggest weapon Brady had to work with at the start of 2020, Christian McCaffrey, played just three games throughout the course of the season. Even the few and far between assets the Panthers did have on offense struggled with injuries.

The Panthers had a few nice pieces heading into the 2020 season, but lacked the overflow of talent that Brady had at his disposal with LSU. With a shallow receiving corps and an injury-prone, inexperienced quarterback, it would be nearly impossible for Brady to turn his team’s lesser-known players into stars. 

Except for that, Brady did exactly that.

Turning coal into diamonds

Anderson broke his trend of underwhelming receiving seasons in a major way– hitting 95 catches, a career-high by a mile, and doing so on a high volume of targets.

In fact, both Anderson’s targets and receptions numbers were top ten in the NFL, with both figures ahead of fantasy football powerhouses such as Kansas City’s Tyreek Hill, Seattle’s D.K. Metcalf and Minnesota’s Justin Jefferson. All three of those receivers finished as clear-cut WR1’s in standard-scoring formats.

The one thing holding Anderson back from playing with the fantasy big boys was a lack of touchdown receptions– a number that could have faltered due in large part to his quarterback, Bridgewater.

Yes, under Brady’s guidance, Bridgewater did shine relative to expectations, hitting career-best marks in completion percentage, passing yards, passing touchdowns, rushing yards, rushing touchdowns, and, well, you get the idea. But despite the ‘Brady Bump’ (trademark pending) going in Bridgewater’s favor– that career-high in passing touchdown’s peaked at just 15, only the 24th most in the NFL.

Anderson wasn’t the only player affected by Bridgewater’s ‘game manager’ approach to football, either. Both D.J. Moore and Curtis Samuel, two wide receivers with two impressive seasons on the field, didn’t see much of that success play out in the realm of fantasy football.

Moore and Anderson teamed up to become the Panthers’ first two pass catchers (excluding Christian McCaffery, a freak of nature athlete but a dedicated running back) to break 1,000 yards in a season since 2014– when Brady was coaching linebackers at William & Mary. Only 18 players had over 1,000 yards receiving in 2020. The Panthers had two of them. Are the only other teams with multiple players at over 1,000 receiving yards? The Chiefs and the Seahawks.

Even Curtis Samuel had an impressive season in his own right– ending the year with over 800 receiving yards and adding 200 on the ground. With the yardage those three players had, coupled with the volume (118 targets for Moore, 118 touches for Samuel), the Panthers’ receiving trifecta was set up to become the Cerberus of fantasy football power. Scoring held them back, however, with Samuel’s five total touchdowns being the most between the three.

But the quarterback who struggled to find his receivers in the endzone is gone– replaced with a former first-round pick who has struggled in the past and could use the help of a certain wizard-like offensive coordinator to bail him out.

Turning diamonds into even more diamonds

Say what you want about Sam Darnold as a player, but at least he’s had seasons with more than 15 passing touchdowns.

Not that Darnold has lit up box scores in the past. In fact, his most prolific passing season peaks at 19 touchdowns. But take into account one simple dynamic– the shift from being coached by Adam Gase with the New York Jets, to Joe Brady and the Carolina Panthers.

That’s the exact reality Darnold finds himself early in the 2021 season. Freed from the clutches of Adam Gase, now as synonymous with coaching failure as he is with players finding individual success after breaking loose of his death grip. Players like Ryan Tannehill, Kenyan Drake, and our friend Robby Anderson have all gone on to have career years away from Gase. 

Darnold has shown really glimpses early in the season and he very well could be a steal for your roster. Darnold now gets Joe Brady, the mastermind behind the peak college football offense, the high-volume receiving seasons of newly exceptional receivers, and the guy who has helped just about everyone in his path reach new heights. All Darnold needs to do is get his guys to the endzone.

Christian McCaffrey went down in yesterday’s Thursday Night Football matchup. It seems that he should miss noticeable time, but not significant time. However, CMAC has proved to be sharp when healthy this season. He notched 50 yards rushing AND 50 yards receiving in the same game where they blew out the New Orleans Saints.

Buy D.J. Moore. The Panthers WR1 has 6-80, 8-79-1, and 8-126 in three games at this point. He has shown to be a reliable target who is uncoverable for Darnold’s QB talents. With CMAC facing an injury, it only makes more sense to buy in on D.J. Moore.

Trust Joe Brady and his offense this 2021 season.

Oregon’s Kayvon Thibodeaux can really be the first overall pick in the 2022 NFL Draft

Oregon’s Kavyon Thiodeaux has elite potential

By: Chris Thomas

Even though the 2022 NFL Draft is months away it is never too early to speculate about who could go first overall. Two weeks into the college football season it appears that a non-quarterback may go first overall since Myles Garrett was drafted in 2017. Oregon pass rusher Kayvon Thibodeaux is the consensus #1 non-quarterback prospect. He is also thought of by many as the potential number one prospect of this entire draft. Here is why Thibodeaux could be the first overall pick in the draft in late April. 

Lack of premier quarterback talent

An NFL Draft class is defined by its quarterbacks. Over the last couple of seasons, it feels like there has been a premier quarterback prospect that has been on top of the class and went first overall. After the first two weeks of the college football season, none of the speculated upon top quarterback prospects have been over impressive. Oklahoma quarterback Spencer Rattler had a brutal debut where he threw only one touchdown and two interceptions against Tulane. Oklahoma barely won that game. North Carolina quarterback Sam Howell had an even worse season debut against Virginia Tech. Howell threw for only 208 yards and one touchdown. He finished the game with three interceptions as well. Both quarterbacks bounced back in their second games of the season, but at this rate, none have looked like a first overall pick quarterback. The standard a quarterback must reach to be taken first overall for it to be worth it is Kyler Murray, Joe Burrow, and Trevor Lawerence.

Recently there have been a couple of quarterbacks that have gone first overall that was not worth the selection. Some of these quarterbacks aren’t considered busts but during their respective predraft processes other non-quarterbacks were considered better prospects and turned out to be much better than the quarterbacks taken first overall. Those quarterbacks are Baker Mayfield and Jared Goff. Both are solid starters but both the Browns and Rams had better options available. Cleveland could have drafted Saquon Barkley, Quenton Nelson, or Bradley Chubb with the first pick in 2018. All three of which are considered more talented than Mayfield, when healthy. Then the Rams showed they regretted trading up for Goff in 2016 when they packaged him with two first-round picks to Detriot for Matthew Stafford. Los Angeles could have drafted Joey Bosa, Jalen Ramsey, Ronnie Stanley, DeForest Buckner, or Laremy Tunsil with the first overall pick. 

This draft class is shaping up to be similar to the latter where there may be multiple non-quarterback prospects who could end up being better than the quarterbacks in this class. Whoever lands the first overall pick may want to learn from the previous mistakes of those teams and take the best player available which is Thibodeaux.

Production

Kayvon Thibodeaux is the number one edge rusher in a loaded edge rusher class. He isn’t just the number one edge rusher prospect in the draft class like Jaelan Phillips, Bradley Chubb, or Dante Fowler Jr. Right now he is spoken about above the likes of Joey Bosa, Nick Bosa, and Chase Young who were elite pass rusher prospects in their respective drafts. Thibodeaux has been placed in the same tier as Jadeveon Clowney and Myles Garrett who were no doubt first overall picks in their respective draft class. He has been placed in that tier of player for good reason. 

During his first season at Oregon, Thibodeaux had 9 sacks and 14 tackles for loss. PFF gave him a 79.9 grade that season which was the best in the Pac-12 and ten points higher than any other freshman edge rusher in the Power Five. In seven games last season Thibodeaux had 3 sacks and 9.5 tackles for loss. Already this season Thibodeaux has a sack and forced fumble in one game played. He earned an 87.2 PFF grade for his sophomore season.

This is a player who has dominated college football over the last three seasons. Scouts have anticipated this season because Thibodeaux is now eligible for the draft. From what he has shown on the field, he is the type of player that scouts love the opportunity to analyze and potentially add to their roster. 

Multiple #1 pick contenders have a young quarterback

In a decent amount of cases when a team drafts a quarterback that team usually doesn’t improve dramatically from where they finished the season before. These are teams who selected quarterbacks early in recent drafts could be picking near the top of the draft and be in the range of this year’s top quarterbacks. These teams include the Jacksonville Jaguars, New York Jets, and Cincinnati Bengals. They are a few teams who could be in range to select a quarterback in this upcoming draft but should be content enough with their quarterback play to not consider selecting another one early this year, especially in a potentially weak quarterback class. 

Other teams like the Philadelphia Eagles, Carolina Panthers, Detriot Lions, and Las Vegas Raiders have a great enough quarterback in house to pass on a quarterback. Also, the Houston Texans have shown in recent history that they are willing to take a pass rusher first overall went they have to choose between an elite one and a quarterback from a weak class (Mario Williams 2006 & Jadeveon Clowney 2014). Since they took Davis Mills in the third round it is likely they want to give him a shot to be the team’s potential QB1 before taking one in the first round. 

All of the teams listed could potentially land the first overall pick. If they land it they would likely have to choose between trading down to a quarterback-needy team or taking the draft’s best prospect Kayvon Thibodeaux.

Expect the Lions, Eagles, and Texans to have the worst records in 2021

The worst NFL teams in 2021 will be…

By: Andy Davies

Plenty of uncertainty surrounds the Detroit Lions, Philadelphia Eagles, and Houston Texans going into the 2021 season. Their quarterback situations are far from clear and their overall rosters are mediocre at best.

The same goes for their head coaches, with all three going into their first seasons at the franchise. Neither of Dan Campbell, Nick Sirianni, or David Culley has been a full-time head coach in the NFL. Campbell is the only one to have some experience, with his spell as interim head coach of the Miami Dolphins in 2015.

Here is why you should be expecting the Lions, Eagles, and Texans to have the three worst records in the league in 2021.

Saying Goodbye To A Franchise Legend In Detroit. Struggles For The Replacement

Matthew Stafford was the number one overall pick in 2009, with the entire city of Detroit hoping he would be the man to turn around the fortunes of the franchise. Despite three seasons of making the playoffs, the Lions and Stafford never won a single postseason game as the wait continues. The Lions remain the team with the second-longest period without a playoff win, their last taking place on January 5th, 1992.

Stafford had some great individual moments as a Lion, most notably his Mic’d up moment during his 2009 rookie season. In a week eleven game against the Cleveland Browns, he overcame injury to produce a moment of pure heroism. He played with a separated shoulder despite the efforts of the medical staff to keep him off the field, leading the Lions to a touchdown-winning drive.

Jim Caldwell guided the Lions to these playoff appearances but was not seen as good enough to take them to the next step. New England Patriots assistant head coach Matt Patricia was brought in but never took to life as head coach. The Lions had three consecutive losing seasons under the coaching of Patricia. They will hope that they have found their guy in Dan Campbell. His press conference was certainly not dull, with Campbell referring to “biting kneecaps”. As a former Lions player, he knows what it takes to play in the league. He also knows about the city of Detroit and his intentions are both positive and clear. If he is given time, he has the desire to bring the good times back to Detroit. However, he is inexperienced as a head coach and the roster is below average.

New quarterback Jared Goff has the potential to struggle. This is despite the drafting of offensive lineman Penei Sewell at seventh overall, a selection that had Campbell and new General Manager Brad Holmes very excited.

Despite his brilliant 2018 season that saw the Rams reach Super Bowl 53, Goff had a poor game and struggled in 2020 as he and head coach Sean McVay’s relationship deteriorated.

Goff struggled despite a plethora of offensive talent around him. Robert Woods and Cooper Kupp form one of the best wide receiver duos in the NFL. He is going to a franchise that let go of their two best wide receivers and failed to replace them.

The Lions have a schedule that features the San Francisco 49ers, Baltimore Ravens, Cincinnati Bengals, Los Angeles Rams, Pittsburgh Steelers, Arizona Cardinals, Atlanta Falcons, and Cleveland Browns. There are also two games against their division rivals, the Green Bay Packers, Minnesota Vikings, and Chicago Bears. The Lions do not have it easy.

Prediction: 3-14

Trouble In Philadelphia; Reason For Hope?

The Eagles have seen three years of gradual decline after winning Super Bowl 52. The 2017 season saw the Eagles lift the Lombardi Trophy for the first time after two previous attempts.

Doug Pederson was the head coach to guide the Eagles to a Super Bowl but was fired after the conclusion of the 2020 season. His decision to bench rookie quarterback Jalen Hurts in order to lose and gain a higher draft pick appeared to be the final nail in the coffin.

Carson Wentz had an MVP caliber season before an injury derailed hopes of winning the award. Backup Nick Foles stepped in and guided the Eagles to the Super Bowl 52 win. He also stepped in a year later and guided the Eagles to a shock Wildcard Round win against the Chicago Bears, with thanks also going to a Cody Parkey missed field goal.

Both Foles and Wentz are no longer Eagles players. Out of the starters in that Super Bowl 52 win, only seven remain with the franchise. Their decision to draft Jalen Reagor over Justin Jefferson continues to be mocked by rival fans and nobody knows how new head coach Nick Sirianni will do in the role.

The schedule is mixed for Philadelphia. Whilst they face the New York Jets, Lions, and twice play the New York Giants, they also have to face the Atlanta Falcons, Carolina Panthers, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, San Francisco 49ers and the Kansas City Chiefs.. This is as well as facing a rising Washington Football Team twice as well as playing the Dallas Cowboys both home and away.

Reports have surfaced in recent days of the Philadelphia Eagles being the favourites for Deshaun, with talks said to be “heating up”.

This could be a move that transforms the franchise. However, Deshaun Watson had his best statistical season yet the Texans only managed four wins all year. This proves that whilst it is very important to have a good quarterback, you need more around to be successful.

Unless the Eagles do something in what remains of the offseason, they will continue to be mediocre if their roster continues to be this poor. If they get offensive or defensive talent in the next one or two offseasons, then they are a team that will compete for years to come. Otherwise, the Eagles will fail to be a threat to both the NFC and NFC East.

This is why Deshaun should avoid the Eagles at this present time. He will be going into a situation no different to what he experienced in Houston.

Prediction: 4-13

What A Difference A Year Makes

Where do we start with the Houston Texans? The 2019 season saw them take a 24-0 lead against the Chiefs in the Divisional Round. However, they allowed 41 unanswered points as they lost 51-31. What has unfolded since in the following nineteen months has been reminiscent of a Greek tragedy.

Head coach Bill O’Brien, who also was general manager, made the unusual decision to trade star wide receiver, Deandre Hopkins. In exchange, the Texans received a running back past his sell-by date in David Johnson, one second-rounder and one fourth-round pick. O’Brien only lasted four games in the 2020 season as they finished the campaign with just four wins.

Since the conclusion of the 2020 season, franchise legend J.J Watt has left and there continues to be an uncertain future surrounding quarterback Deshaun Watson. Houston’s quarterback requested a trade in January before allegations of sexual assault arose. These have lingered throughout the remainder of the offseason. It is unclear if Watson will play in the NFL at all in 2021 but even if he does, it is unlikely that he will be wearing a Texans jersey.

Houston has said they would listen to trade offers for Watson, with the franchise said to be wanting three first-round picks. They have also acquired Tyrod Taylor via Free Agency and used their first pick in the draft on Davis Mills in the third round. Even if the Eagles stick with Hurts, there will be plenty of other suitors.

Even with Watson, the Texans are light on the ground when it comes to elite talent. Linebacker Zach Cunningham and Laremy Tunsil are talents and despite adding Phillip Lindsay and Mark Ingram to the running back room, the roster is one of the league’s worst.

David Culley has developed somewhat of a worrying reputation after his time with the Eagles, Chiefs, and Baltimore Ravens. During his fourteen-season spell with the Eagles, his four seasons with the Chiefs, and two years with the Ravens, he had 0 wide receivers earn a PFF grade of 80 or above.

The Chiefs wideouts went an entire season without a touchdown under Culley. With a wide receiver room featuring Brandin Cooks, Nico Collins and Anthony Miller, this is not exactly a position of strength for the Texans. Culley is unlikely to see any of these receivers score high PFF grades.

Whilst the Texans might be playing the Jacksonville Jaguars twice and the Jets, they have a tough schedule. They will face the Cleveland Browns, Buffalo Bills, Arizona Cardinals, Los Angeles Rams, Miami Dolphins and Seattle Seahawks. Houston will also play the Los Angeles Chargers and the San Francisco 49ers as well as the Indianapolis Colts and Tennessee Titans twice.

They are unlikely to win many of these games. Fans should be expecting a difficult season.

Prediction: 2-15

Panthers pass rush will really be elite

Panthers pass rush will look much better in 2021

The Carolina Panthers defense was abysmal when it came to hunting down quarterbacks in 2020. The Panthers pass rush was a lousy 23rd in the league in sacks last season. 

Headed into the offseason, second-year head coach Matt Rhule knew he had to do two things: 1. Upgrade the quarterback spot and 2. Get better at chasing down QBs. Now that offseason has mostly eclipsed and training kick is underway, it’s safe to say the Panthers have answered those two offseason questions well. It’s well known that Sam Darnold will look to inject more firepower into the offense, but it’s less discussed how the Panthers front seven will be more imposing. In this outlook, I’m going to outline the strides that the CAR pass rush this offseason has taken and why they will be an electric force in the 2021 season. 

  • Growth of Derrick Brown

It’s well known that DE Brian Burns will be entering his third year in the league and that he was terrific in each of the last two seasons. Burns notched 7.5 sacks as a rookie, then proceeded to collect 9 sacks as a sophomore. Indeed, he should be a double-digit sack player in his third year. 

Although, the x-factor and biggest difference-maker will come from second-year DT Derrick Brown. The team cut ties with veteran DT Kawann Short and it’s clear that they are relying on Brown to significantly step up. Brown may have recorded a mere 3.5 sacks as a rookie, but he led all of the rookies with QB pressures (34). It’s also very common for DTs and pass rushers to take a large step with QB sacks after the first or second year of being in the league. Mack and Watt both recorded less than several sacks as rookies, then proceeded to be All-Pros in their second year. DeForest Buckner, who is a Top 5 DT for the Indianapolis Colts, mustered only nine sacks in his first two years combined. With an uptick of snaps and more moves mastered that weren’t instructed in college, Brown should be the next QB hunter to take a big step early in his career.

  • Signing of OLB/DE Haason Reddick

The Panthers made one of the most underrated free-agent signings this offseason. The team signed an elite player, who also carries lots of potentials. The 26-year-old Reddick signed a one-year six million dollar deal and if it bodes well, the team should have a long-term edge rusher in him. 

Reddick was tied for third in the NFL in sacks last season (12.5). He’s just entering his prime, but he has another year to prove that he can maintain that level of play. Expect the Panthers to get another elite season out of the former first-round OLB/DE. 

  • NFC South competition

The Panthers pass rush has received a big favor in 2021. In the NFC South, Drew Brees will not be under the helm in New Orleans, and the Falcons offense will not have their “best overall player” in Julio Jones. 

Brees has routinely picked apart the Panthers secondary and allowed no time for the Panthers pass rush to get home. With Taysom Hill or Jameis Winston at QB, the CAR defense should feel a lot more confident getting QB takedowns. Hill has struggled majorly at reading defenses, while Winston has been one of the most self-harmed offensive players in NFL history. Expect the Panthers defense to have noticeably more sacks from the four combined divisional games against the Saints and Falcons.

Why the Panthers need to sign Todd Gurley

Free Agent Todd Gurley should join Panthers RB group

By: Jake Rajala

The Carolina Panthers entered the 2021 offseason desperate for change. Matt Rhule and the Panthers knew that they were getting All-Pro Christian McCaffrey back and healthy. Still, the fourth-place NFC South team from a year ago was widely aware that they needed a boost in their arsenal if they wanted to head in a winning direction.

The Panthers made a smart move by acquiring the young, cheaper Sam Darnold at the QB position. On defense, the organization drafted Jaycee Horn with the eighth overall pick. Numerous other valuable moves were made like the signing of Dan Arnold at tight end, inking Haason Reddick at defensive end, and the addition of Denzel Perryman to the linebacker unit. The Panthers undoubtedly boast a new look, sharper squad as training camp approaches. 

Indeed, training camp approaches, but it’s still the offseason and there’s still time to focus on improving the roster before the pads come on for the Panthers and the 31 other ball clubs. When looking at the Panthers, they are a team that could use more talent at a few spots. In particular, CAR could use more firepower at the RB position. 

Free-agent RB Todd Gurley would be the perfect fit for coach Rhule’s offensive attack. The Panthers boast CMAC, but there’s hardly an ounce of proven ability behind McCaffrey. Behind the number one RB spot, lies fourth-round rookie Chubba Hubbard and second-year UDFA Rodney Smith. 

Gurley is a mere 26 years old, he’s an ironman RB (played 14+ games in each of the last six seasons), and he brings value in the rushing and passing game. He recorded roughly 5,000 combined yards and 54 total touchdowns across a three-season span (2017-2019). In his most previous season, he wasn’t an electric force behind the dreadful Falcons OL, but he had several long runs and bruising TD runs, which helped show that his knees still have juice and he can be relied on with even a heavy load.

Gurley may not be the same player that he was as an All-Pro in 2018, but he could be involved and provide noticeable production in various ways. In a division where the Panthers play the Saints elite run defense twice a year, the Bucs dominant front seven twice a season, a slight boost from Gurley’s all-around ability could go a long way. His presence could especially be valued in short-yardage situations, where his strength could be utilized and CMAC could sit out and stay fresher.


Gurley signed a one-year – 5.5 million dollar deal with the Atlanta Falcons last season. He will likely garner around four million per season on his next team. The Panthers sit 11th in the league in cap space, so they have the ammunition to ink the former stud RB. If Gurley and the Panthers have a mutual interest in the near future, or if the Panthers feel the need to get more stability at halfback during training camp, it would be wise to reel in Gurley’s services. If Gurley does come to Charlotte and proves to be a quality player, the Panthers could have a superb tandem for years to come.

3 reasons why Sam Darnold could be the best QB in the NFC South

The Panthers QB could be the top NFC South QB

The NFC South, also known as the division with the most divisional shootout matches, is home to four polarizing QB situations. There is the seven-time Super Bowl champion Tom Brady in Tampa Bay, former number one overall pick Jameis Winston and swiss army knife Taysom Hill competing for the starting gig in New Orleans, the consistent veteran Matt Ryan in Atlanta, and then there’s the USC golden armed signal-caller Sam Darnold in Carolina. 

The spotlight and offseason hype of the QB group belongs to reigning Super Bowl Tom Brady. The second glimpse of praise rests in the Big Easy, where it’s anticipated that a talented younger QB will have the keys to Sean Payton’s aerial attack. Attention and successful expectations are deserved to be handed to the shiny NFC South signal-callers. Nonetheless, the outlooks of Brady and Winston/Hill indirectly sway less belief in the young field general in the Carolinas. 

Not only is there plenty of reason to believe the former third overall pick can do wonders with an offense featuring Christian McCaffrey, but I believe he could be the utmost best QB in 2021. Here are three reasons why Darnold can be the best QB in the wild west of the NFC South.

*Best QB= highest passer rating

  1. Jameis Winston and Taysom Hill turnover issues

Winston is an exciting Twitter follow, due to his humbled outlook and a glorious entourage of training videos. Even though there’s a train of football addicts putting their bets on Winston’s comeback season, the former Bucs QB is all too familiar with not meeting expectations. 

It’s important to note that as soon as Winston arrived in the Big Easy, he had friendship and trust in the locker room, despite the conspicuous case of on-field concerns. His infectious personality and reputable work ethic gave him team allies and media clout instantly. 

Winston’s arm talent on the field is evident, given his 5,109 passing yards and 33 passing touchdowns thrown in 2019. However, the double-edged sword correlated with Winston’s passing prowess. Winston threw for an astronomical 30 interceptions, which clearly couldn’t be made up for outlandish passing marks. 

Vinny Testaverde was the last QB to throw 30+ interceptions, which was back in 1988. 

Winston also threw 14 interceptions, 15 ints, and 18 ints in a single season. His turnover habits have routinely been league leading throughout his career. 

Taysom Hill, the other QB duking it out for the starting job, carries high end potential through his blistering speed and arm accuracy. Hill was awarded the starting role after Drew Brees went down with a rib injury in 2020 and he filled in admirably with a 3-1 record. 

It’s clear Hill has a firm grasp on the playbook and he can oust highlight reels in each contest. Nonetheless, Hill has his own turnover slip ups.  

The former UDFA had an enormous, odd amount of fumbles in the 2020 campaign. His 10 fumbles in 13 starts was outrageous, largely due to the fact that he started a mere four games. Not only does Hill’s turnover issues neglect his running ability, but it significantly deteriorates his status as a true starting QB. 

Hill’s 10 fumbles in 2020 were close to breaking the dreadful single season franchise fumble record set by former Saints QB Aaron Brooks (14).  

  1. Tom Brady is the goat, but he will be 44 years old in August

Tom Brady has proven to not be the greatest QB, but the best player of all time. His most recent Super Bowl ring at age 43 in his first season as a Buccaneer can attest to not only his talent but his relentless drive. However, even Tom Brady won’t live in football paradise forever.  

Brady and the Bucs know the end for him is approaching, which was made clear with the early draft pick of Kyle Trask. The Bucs fully expect that 2021 or 2022 is most likely his last year in a Tampa uniform. 

When a QB plays on his last legs, the outcome is far from satisfying. The latest career version of Drew Brees and Brett Favre put up historically poor air yardage, while Peyton Manning was benched for Brock Osweiler. 

  1. Matt Ryan does not have Julio Jones

When Matt Ryan was once asked what the offense would look like without star WR Julio Jones, he response was “I don’t know what the offense would look like without Julio Jones”. 

Ryan’s answer was nothing short of the unexpected, as the longtime QB holds a career passer rating of 88.6 without the great wideout. Most recently, Ryan has been a speck of dust without Julio. Ryan recorded a mere 70.6 PFF grade in 2020 without the future HOF wideout. The 88.6 rating is just a slight margin over Darnold’s own passer rating in Adam Gase’s lackluster offense in 2019 (84.3). 

The Falcons QB without his longtime friend will have a hard time flexing his muscles as the top QB stud in the division next season. Whereas, Darnold will be gifted with a healthy Christian McCaffrey and the league’s most underrated WR duo (Robby Anderson, DJ Moore). 

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Top QB sleepers in redraft

Wentz is a top QB sleeper in fantasy

Intro

We are speeding into fantasy draft season come August. Every year there are players that intrigue us based on their role/situation with their current teams. I’d take a look at the quarterback position and dive into three sleepers at QB that should be looked into for redraft leagues.

Carson Wentz, Sam Darnold and Ryan Fitzpatrick are my QB sleepers heading into the 2021 NFL fantasy redraft drafts. Each one of these guys are now on teams and hoping a fresh start can start can get them into the upper tier of QB fantasy rankings.

Carson Wentz

Season 2020 stats: 12 games started, 2620 passing yards, 16 TDs and 15 Ints. Wentz went 3-8-1 in the 12 games started for the Eagles. Wentz scored 213.40 fantasy points in 2020 which was good for 22nd among all QBs. After having an MVP caliber season back in 2017, he has never been quite the same. For whatever the reasons might be, Wentz lost that magic touch.

Wentz was traded in the off-season to Colts is now re-united with his old offensive coordinator Frank Reich. The 2017 season was a breakout one for Wentz, he threw 33 TDs, 7 INTs, and 3296 passing yards before he tore his left ACL in week 14. Wentz was fifth-best fantasy QB that season with a total of 283 fantasy points.

I’m fully on board with the Wentz fantasy train this season. The reunion of Wentz with his old offensive coordinator will do wonders for his career especially this season. He also playing behind one of the best offensive lines in the NFL. Do not sleep on Wentz as a top 15 fantasy QB play for the 2021 season.

Sam Darnold

Season 2020 stats: 12 games started, 2208 passing yards, 9 TDs and 11 Ints. Yes, you guys read that correctly just nine passing touchdowns all season by Darnold! He was the 30th QB in terms of fantasy points with just 145.02. Just for context Dak Prescott had 138 fantasy points in just 5 games before his injury.

Darnold is an enigma of sorts. He has shown flashes of brilliance, making off-balance throws and escapability out of the pocket. The issue is that he’s just shown flashes. There have been way too many mind-numbing turnovers, head-scratching decisions, and just downright awful QB play. Now, Darnold was also playing with the worst offensive line unit in the NFL for the past three seasons. He had no standout play-makers who would scare the opposing defenses and the worst head coach the last two seasons.

However, that is all in the past. I am a believer in Darnold’s ability. After being traded in the off-season to the Carolina Panthers, he has a clean slate. With head coach Matt Rhule at the helm, Darnold is set to prove his doubters wrong. He has the best running back in the NFL in Christian McCaffrey, with a plethora of other offensive weapons including rookie wide receiver Terrace Marshall Jr.

Darnold has the best supporting cast and coaching staff he has ever been around. There is no question that Darnold has the talent, it was always when he can put it all together and be consistent. Darnold in terms of fantasy relevance will be late round steal. Yes, let others in your draft snag the highly touted QBs while you build roster depth. A serviceable QB in the late rounds of fantasy drafts is a gold mine. Darnold will be a late round hidden gem.

Ryan Fitzpatrick

Season 2020 stats: 7 games started, 2091 passing yards, 13 TDs and 8 Ints. Ah, the ageless wonder himself, old man winter etc. the names can go on and on for Fitzpatrick but he just keeps on. Fitzpatrick was the 28th fantasy QB last season with 160.74 fantasy points.

Leaving the Miami Dolphins in the off-season for the Washington Football team is the best win-now scenario for Fitzpatrick. That defense is absolutely loaded and going to wreak havoc this upcoming season. As far as offensively, Fitzpatrick has arguably the best talent that he’s been around, maybe ever. Antonio Gibson is a rock star and Terry McLaurin is an absolute stud. The team signed all-purpose wide receiver Curtis Samuel and drafted rookie, Dyami Brown.

Under coach Ron Rivera, Fitzpatrick can flourish in that system with those play-makers on offense. The best part is that he knows that defense will back him up no matter what, so you could essentially see a looser Fitzpatrick not having to carry the entire team on his back. Look for Fitzpatrick to be another late round grab in fantasy drafts.

Sukhwant Singh

SinghisKing908

Top 5 dark horse wildcard playoff teams right now

New AFC and NFC teams that could make playoffs this year

By: Adam Hulse (@AdamHulseSports)

Every season in the NFL there is a new field of playoff teams. It is extremely rare for the same exact group of teams to make it two years in a row, especially when it comes to the wild card spots. There are always teams every season that plays far below their expectations while other teams end up being much better than projected. Let’s speculate who some of the dark horse candidates could be this year for the wildcard spots in the playoffs. We will define a dark horse as a team that finished below 500 last season and did not make the playoffs. Here are five teams that fit the criteria.

New England Patriots

It seems a little strange calling the Patriots a dark horse considering how long they dominated the AFC and even the NFL in general but that’s exactly what they are heading into this season. Last season was the first time since 2008 that they missed out on the playoffs. Ironically, they actually won 11 games that year and were only the second team in the modern era to win that many games and not make a postseason appearance. Before 2008, the last time they missed the playoffs was in 2002, which was the first full season for Tom Brady.

Their 7-9 record in 2020 broke their incredible streak of 19 consecutive winning seasons. The last time they had a losing season was when they went 5-11 in the year 2000, which was before the Brady era. All things considered, it’s amazing how quickly they went from annual favorites to win the AFC conference to a team that’s being considered a dark horse team. Losing the greatest quarterback of all time can have that effect.

Quarterback Cam Newton will enter his second season as the starter for the Patriots. It was a roller coaster of a 2020 season for Cam, who dealt with all sorts of adversity including injuries, Covid, and a lack of offensive talent. Despite finishing the season with a losing record, they were really just a couple of plays away from a winning season and being right in the race for a wild card last year. The two plays that really jump out are the fumble against the Bills on a game-winning drive and being stuffed at the goal line on the last play of the game against the Seahawks. That was likely the slim difference between 9-7 and 7-9.

That is still no excuse because the NFL is a game that is often determined by a play or two here and there. The Patriots did not make those plays which are why they finished as a losing team. This year could be a different story as they look to make another postseason run. They will return a bunch of key players on defense who sat out last year because of Covid and also added some offensive weapons in the offseason including Hunter Henry, Jonnu Smith, Kendrick Bourne, and Nelson Agholor.

Defense is a staple in New England and it will be better this year with who they have returning. As for the offense, there is much to be optimistic about with Cam leading the way. He has a ton more talent surrounding him this year, he will finally be fully healthy, and he has had a full year to really learn the system and work with the coaching staff. Even if Cam struggles, they have a rookie in Mac Jones waiting for his opportunity to show what he can do. All things considered, don’t sleep on the Patriots this year.

San Francisco 49ers

The 49ers are another team that is not a traditional dark horse. They finished last season with a very disappointing 6-10 record but the year before that they represented the NFC conference in the Super Bowl. Interestingly, the majority of that roster is still with the team today including most of their key contributors on both offense and defense. The biggest difference between the 2019 and 2020 seasons was the health of quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo. In 2019 he played a full season of 16 games for the only time in his career while in 2020 he was only able to appear in 6 games. Unfortunately, because of his extensive injury history, 6 games is actually the second-most in a season for his career.

In his full 2019 season, Garoppolo was a good quarterback but was not exactly spectacular. He was more of a “game manager” type but not necessarily a huge difference-maker. It is widely believed that the team won the NFC mostly based on elite defense and their dynamic rushing attack designed by Kyle Shanahan. The massive drop-off in results between 2019 and 2020 is not simply just because Garoppolo was hurt. They had many other injuries as well, especially on the defensive side. It’s also important to note that the backup quarterbacks were an absolute disaster.

Nevertheless, Garoppolo will enter the 2021 season as the starting quarterback again. He will of course hope to stay healthy, something he has rarely been able to do, unfortunately, but will also be looking to get the 49ers back to their dominant 2019 version. If he is unable to do so, they will turn to Trey Lance, who is a very talented rookie that they traded up to draft. It is very possible that he will eventually be a star but just needs some time to develop. If he is ahead of schedule, he may even be an instant upgrade from Garoppolo.

The quarterback situation in San Francisco is fascinating considering all of the different factors. It could really make or break the 49ers this year. As stated before, they still have many of the key players on their roster from that 2019 team including George Kittle, Raheem Mostert, Fred Warner, and Nick Bosa. The 49ers are a talented enough team from top to bottom, coaches included, to not only qualify as a wildcard dark horse but a sleeper Super Bowl contender as well.

Carolina Panthers

A team that qualifies as a true dark horse candidate is the Panthers. This is a rebuilding team with the potential to be very competitive this season. They have a ton of young talent that pairs perfectly with their young up-and-coming coaching staff including Matt Rhule and Joe Brady. They finished last season at just 5-11 but the 2021 version has a real chance to far exceed that because of how different the roster will look from players returning from injury to changes in player personnel.

Maybe most important is the return of Christian McCaffrey from injury after playing just 3 games in 2020. He is the most dynamic player in the NFL when healthy and his 2392 total yards in 2019 prove it. Another key factor to their success is the fact they have switched quarterbacks this year from Teddy Bridgewater to Sam Darnold, who they acquired from the Jets. Darnold is a real wild card and it will be very interesting to see what he does in this new and much better situation that he is in. He was a very high-rated prospect but never quite worked out with the Jets, but will now have a much better roster and coaching staff with his new team.

Rhule and Brady are a major upgrade from the revolving disaster he was dealing with on the Jets. The weapons available to him on offense will be much better also, starting with McCaffrey and DJ Moore but also including Robby Anderson, with who he previously played and had some success. The Panthers also drafted three very talented rookie weapons in Chuba Hubbard, Terrance Marshall, and Tommy Tremble. Darnold has a real chance to thrive in this ideal situation.

The defense is still going to be a weakness of this team but they are trying to improve on that side of the ball as well. Adding cornerbacks AJ Bouye and Jaycee Horn is a great start to getting better but the unit is still a work in progress. Taking everything into consideration, the Panthers are a true dark horse wildcard contender with a very wide spectrum of possible outcomes this season. They could make the playoffs or could finish towards the bottom of the conference but one thing is for certain, the Panthers are trending in the right direction and are a team to watch.

Denver Broncos

On paper, the Broncos are a team loaded with talent. Unfortunately for them, it did not show up in the wins and losses last season as they finished a disappointing 5-11. Part of that is due to missing some key players like Von Miller but much of it can be credited to the big question mark at quarterback. Drew Lock has yet to prove that he can be a solid starter in the NFL. He has had some flashes of really good but also some long stretches of underachieving. This is why they decided to also bring in Teddy Bridgewater, but ironically his inconsistencies are not too different than those of Lock.

If one of these two Broncos quarterbacks can find a way to blossom into a better version of themselves then the Broncos can be a legitimate playoff threat. They are loaded at the offensive skill positions including Melvin Gordon, Javonte Williams, Jerry Jeudy, Courtland Sutton, and Noah Fant. They still have a very solid defense lead by superstar Von Miller and a stingy secondary anchored by Justin Simmons. This roster is built to win now if an answer can emerge at quarterback. They have the potential to be a team with double-digit wins and that makes them a dark horse for a wildcard this year.

Los Angeles Chargers

Not enough can be said about how good Justin Herbert was last year in his rookie season. Passing for 4336 yards and 31 touchdowns highlighted one best of the best rookie seasons ever. Herbert is what makes the Chargers a dark horse for a wild card this year. If he can repeat what he did last year, or possibly be even better than the Chargers need to be taken seriously as a contender this year. They did win just seven games last season but, more importantly, they actually finished the season on a four-game winning streak which included beating all three of the other teams in their division. This gives a great reason to be optimistic about the upcoming campaign.

Besides Herbert bursting onto the scene, the Chargers have a lot of good complimentary pieces as well. They have solid weapons on offense including Keenan Allen and Austin Ekeler while also using this offseason to improve their offensive line and focus on protecting their young superstar quarterback. Their defense, lead by Joey Bosa, is well above average and they will be getting a huge boost this season with the return of Derwin James. He is one of the most dynamic defensive players in the entire NFL and is an absolute game-changer when he is healthy.

In conclusion, if the rookie year of Herbert was not a fluke and he actually is the real deal then the Chargers definitely have a shot to make the playoffs this year. Those chances improve even more if Derwin looks like himself upon returning. Though not impossible, it is still unlikely that they will beat out the Chiefs in the divisional race this year but don’t count them out of the wild card race.

Pros and Cons For Panthers Drafting a QB in round one

After trading for Darnold, should Carolina double-down at QB?

by Michael Obermuller

Just one season into a three-year deal with Teddy Bridgewater, the Carolina Panthers have traded three draft picks (including a 2022 second rounder) for Sam Darnold. This time, Matt Rhule and Joe Brady finally got their quarterback of the future — or did they?

From multiple reports, the Panthers may not be totally “out” on drafting a QB just yet. General manager Scott Fitterer knows just how crucial it is to get this position right, and he’ll bring in as many players as it takes to do it. Darnold is the presumed starter based on potential as of now, but statistically, he was far less efficient than Bridgewater in 2020.

QB, Year (Team)Games StartedCompletion %Yards/GameTDsINTsRating
Sam Darnold, 2020 (Jets)1259.6%184.091172.7
Teddy Bridgewater, 2020 (Panthers)1569.1%248.9151192.1

Of course, Darnold was in Adam Gase’s system last season, a system that many blame for his failures, but maybe neither signal-caller deserves the job outright after a combined record of 6-21 a few months ago.

That’s Carolina’s mindset, but should they sacrifice even more draft capital and cap space on the position when they’ve already used so much? Let’s take a look at the pros and cons of the Panthers drafting another QB in 2021.

Cases FOR Drafting a QB

  • The Player they Want Most is Available at No. 8 Overall
    • The word around the NFL is that Carolina wants Justin Fields, and their scouting would certainly back that up. Based on Albert Breer’s tweet above, the Panthers have shown heavy attendance at both of Fields’ two Pro Day events.
    • This would also make sense in concurrence with the Darnold trade. Supposedly, the Panthers previously tried to move up to either second or third overall, but the New York Jets decided not to budge from two, and the San Francisco 49ers beat them to the punch at three.
    • Reports have the Panthers less high on Mac Jones and Trey Lance, so the Darnold deal may have been insurance in the event that Fields is gone at eight. If a QB you LOVE is still on the board, you draft him, that’s Football 101 (especially if there’s no QB prospect you like in 2022).
  • Potential Ceiling
    • Every team evaluates players differently. For example, the New York Jets new braintrust clearly evaluated Darnold differently than the Carolina Panthers, being that they believe a rookie has a higher ceiling than the former third overall pick in 2018.
    • Having said that, Carolina would not have traded for Darnold unless they thought he had more potential than Bridgewater. They should only consider drafting a QB if they truly believe he has a higher potential than both Sam and Teddy.
    • The stats above could support this theory alone, but it’ll also have to do with age, dual-threat ability, scheme fit, mentality and different raw skills like arm strength. A prospect like Fields would beat out the two veterans in almost every measurable category.
  • Can Never Have Enough QBs
    • This is the “multiple darts” argument, but it’s unlikely that Carolina would ever enter the 2021 season with three quarterbacks.
    • They could draft a QB at eight, then trade Bridgewater to a team like the Denver Broncos, Chicago Bears, or New England Patriots.

Case AGAINST Drafting a QB

  • Top QBs Are Gone Early
    • I know, duh, but I’m including this to point out that Carolina CANNOT and SHOULD NOT trade up for a quarterback. They already gave up three picks to get Darnold, and this rebuilding franchise still needs help elsewhere if they plan on succeeding long-term.
    • Most draft analysts have all five of the main QB prospects being drafted in the top 10, and some have them going one through five (or at least top seven). This may be out of the Panthers hands.
  • Darnold’s Upside
    • Although Bridgewater could theoretically outplay Darnold, I don’t think there’s an argument to keep Teddy over a rookie past 2022, so let’s focus on Sam here.
    • The latest NYJ disappointment is just 24 years old in June, and he’s had an odd start to his career. Whether due to injury or his baffling bout with mono, Darnold has yet to play a full season. This could be looked at as a con for the USC product, or it could mean that the best is yet to come.
  • Change of Scenery Could “Unlock” Darnold
    • The Jets also didn’t do Darnold any favors, hiring Gase to mentor him after one failed campaign with Todd Bowles and Jeremy Bates. Panthers OC Joe Brady is considered to be one of the brightest young minds in the game, which could act as a catalyst for Sam.
    • A skill-position core of Christian McCaffrey, D.J. Moore, Robby Anderson and David Moore also trumps anything the Jets ever armed Darnold with.
    • Even offensive line play was better in Carolina last season. Darnold had a pressure percentage of 27.3 compared to Bridgewater’s 19.8. Sam was also hit the same amount of times (38) as Teddy in three less starts, and was actually hurried once more than him despite the difference in games.
  • Available Cap Space & Draft Capital vs. Roster Needs
    • As I just pointed out, the Jets never put a quality roster around Darnold, so would it be wise for Carolina to do the same, even if they start a rookie QB?
    • Bridgewater currently has a cap hit of $22.9 million-plus this year ($20 million dead cap hit), and Darnold has a hit of $4.77 million. They have ALREADY picked up Sam’s fifth year option for 2022, which is another $18.85 million, and assuming they cannot deal Teddy, they’ll incure a $5 million dead cap hit when they release him next offseason. An eighth overall pick would add about $3.75 million this year and $4.7 million in 2022.
    • After the Darnold trade, the Panthers have seven draft picks in 2021, and five picks in 2022.
    • Carolina’s defense ranked 18th in points allowed last season. Their offensive line also ranked 18th according to Pro Football Focus. They even lost playmakers like Curtis Samuel and Mike Davis this offseason. They cannot afford to spend $31 million-plus and four total draft picks (including a first and second) on three QBs in 2021 when this roster is far from perfect.

The Verdict

I think it’s pretty obvious that the Panthers should give Darnold the opportunity in 2021. For better or for worse, they made their bed when they pounced on the Jets trade proposal. The only way they draft a QB is if they find a second trade partner for Bridgewater, which is possible, but I doubt they get much back in this scenario (besides cap relief). With the defending Super Bowl Champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers set up to be the powerhouse of the division for at least one more season, it’s probably smarter to add another layer of foundation around the quarterback position this draft. Then, after seeing what you have in Darnold, you can re-evaluate the situation in 2022.

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