The State of the Carolina Panthers
Updated: Jul 7, 2021
Looking back, roaring forward....
The Beginning of a new era
Going into the 2020 season, it seemed as if our senior class had graduated. The loss of Cam, Luke, Greg, and Ron in the same year was a lot to handle and there were new faces everywhere. A first year head coach with no NFL experience, a pair of new coordinators, a $60 million gamble on a back-up QB, and one of the youngest rosters in the league provided fans with a lot of question marks going into the season.
The year started off on a sour note having Alex Armah get stuffed on a 4th down with the game on the line, and from there things did not look good. A large halftime deficit to Tampa Bay the next week, followed by a CMAC injury all but spelled doom for the 2020 season. However, similar to 2019, the Panthers surprisingly ripped off three in a row, starting with a seven point underdog win in Los Angeles, followed up by a well-rounded performance against Arizona, and finally the monkey off of our back with a win in Atlanta. With the confidence flying high and fans sensing some momentum, an opening drive interception to the Chicago Bears and a sub-sequential one possession loss (this was a common trend) brought us back to reality. No need to keep dwelling on last season. Panthers fans know all too well how the season played out after that.
Glimpses of Hope
The encouraging part about the 2020 season were the glimpses the team showed of what this roster is capable of. This was evident when Christian McCaffrey returned for one of the most electric Panthers games in recent memory, taking Kansas City down to the last possession (what else is new). Matt Rhule and Co. threw all but the kitchen sink at Andy Reid and the world champs, including a fake punt. This was the type of game that gave me as a Panthers fan hope for the future and proved to me that this team can show fight, but just needs to provide results.
I am not going to comment on the play of the quarterback formally known as Teddy-Two-Gloves because he is no longer our problem to deal with. Instead, I will focus on the encouraging statistics of Robby Anderson and DJ Moore. Through the first six games of the season, Robby Anderson was arguably a top WR in the NFL. He continued to produce, exceeding 1,000 yards. The combination of him and the silent assassin DJ Moore, who had yet another 1,000 yard season despite ineptitude at quarterback, makes me excited for the capabilities of this dynamic duo for the upcoming season.
A couple other takeaways from the 2020 season on the defensive side have to do with how well some of our rookies performed. Second round selection Jeremy Chinn proved all the skeptics wrong who wanted to select Isaiah Simmons in the first round. Not only did Chinn out-play Simmons, but he was strongly considered in the running for DROY, winning multiple defensive rookie of the month awards. He even showed some flashes of brilliance last year, as evident in the Minnesota game when he set an NFL record for scoring back-to-back fumble recoveries for touchdowns. Our first round selection Derek Brown started off a little slow, but you could tell as the year went on, he was getting more and more comfortable.
A couple more draft picks also played well, with Troy Pride adding depth in the secondary, and after a couple injuries, YGM looks like he could make an impact in this coming year. As much as I love discussing the rookies from last year, we cannot overlook the play of Brian Burns, because if you paid attention to Panthers games last year, he easily could've had about 6 to 7 more sacks. There were some low points last year on defense, but there were definitely some high points to get excited about as we go into the 2021 season.
New Year, New Outlook
The 2021 roster is still loaded with young talent and new faces. We have to remember Matt Rhule is a program builder. He has only had one shortened off-season and a raw roster, but still shaped together a five-win campaign with eight, one-score losses. As the national media seems to forget, we were missing arguably the MVP of the previous season for the entire year. Run CMC is somehow getting bigger and is ready to tear apart the league again. Brian Burns is my hot take for DPOY, as he gets to the QB quicker than almost anyone. He will become a household name by the end of the season. There were a lot of good things and a lot of bad things to take away from last year, but let's stay on a positive note and get ready for some Carolina Panthers football!