Carolina Panthers 2018 team preview
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The Carolina Panthers are in a similar position to where they were a year ago. They were a playoff team with too many question marks to expect another postseason run, yet, they found a way to be one of the top six teams in the NFC.

Here is a breakdown of the Panthers for the 2018 season.

Head Coach

Ron Rivera is entering his eighth year as head coach of the Panthers. He has amassed a 64-47-1 record and 3-4 mark in the postseason. The Panthers are the only head coaching job he has had in football. Prior to leading the Panthers, he was the defensive coordinator of the Chargers for three years and Bears for three years. He also held the linebackers coach role for the Eagles for five seasons and defensive quality control job for the Bears for two seasons. He started coaching in 1997, five years after completing a nine-year career as a linebacker for the Bears.

Draft Picks

Round 1, Pick 24 – D.J. Moore, WR, Maryland. Moore quickly climbed draft boards in the days leading up to the draft. He is a well-built speedy receiver with the physical skills to be very good. However, play-to-play effort level is a major problem that isn’t easily corrected.

Round 2, Pick 55 – Donte Jackson, CB, LSU. Jackson is an extremely fast corner with less than ideal size. He will likely get plenty of opportunities to win the starting slot cornerback position and could win it early in the season.

Round 3, Pick 85 – Rashaan Gaulden, DB, Tennessee. Gaulden is bigger and slower than Jackson but has the ability to challenge for a starting role in the defensive backfield. He is a good tackler and has decent ball skills.

Round 4, Pick 101 – Ian Thomas, TE, Indiana. Thomas is a balanced tight end with enough athleticism and speed to eventually be a quality receiver. He is a better blocker at this point.

Round 4, Pick 136 – Marquis Haynes, DE, Mississippi. Haynes is a good edge rusher with linebacker size. He is a classic tweener that may not have the skills to play linebacker nor the size to play defensive end.

Round 5, Pick 161 – Jermaine Carter, LB, Maryland. Carter is a highly productive, undersized linebacker. His future in the NFL may as a special teams star.

Round 7, Pick 234 – Andre Smith, LB, North Carolina. Smith is a physical downhill, run-supporting inside linebacker. He doesn’t have the coverage skills to play on third down and may only be a situational player.

Round 7, Pick 242 – Kendrick Norton, DT, Miami. Norton is a run-stuffing nose tackle with scheme flexibility. He could develop into a very valuable piece to a defense without putting up big numbers.

Notable Additions

RB C.J. Anderson (Broncos) – Anderson is a pure running back. He could be the physical, between-the-tackles complement to Christian McCaffrey.

RB Kenjon Barner (Eagles) – Barner is an athletic, speedy, undersized running back. He has good receiving skills and special teams ability.

CB Ross Cockrell (Giants) – Cockrell is a good sized outside cornerback. He will battle for a starting job opposite James Bradberry.

DT Dontari Poe (Falcons) – Poe is a massive nose tackle with surprising athleticism. His combination of skills sometimes leaves you expecting more. He was the prize of the free agent class for the Panthers.

S Da’Norris Searcy (Titans) – Searcy is a playmaker in the secondary. He is a well-built player that is not afraid to be physical when the ball is in the air.

OL Jeremiah Sirles (Vikings) – Sirles is a versatile offensive lineman that can play inside or out. He has good size and athleticism. He should get the first opportunity to win the starting left guard spot.

WR Jarius Wright (Vikings) – Wright is an underrated, undersized slot receiver. He does not have a lot of catches in the NFL but has a lot of big ones that convert first downs and touchdowns.

Projected Starters

Offense

Quarterback – 1 Cam Newton; Running Back – 22 Christian McCaffrey; Wide Receiver – 11 Torrey Smith; Wide Receiver – 17 Devin Funchess; Wide Receiver – 10 Curtis Samuel; Tight End – 88 Greg Olsen; Left Tackle – 75 Matt Kalil; Left Guard – 71 Jeremiah Sirles; Center – 67 Ryan Kalil; Right Guard – 70 Trai Turner; Right Tackle – 60 Darryl Williams

Defense

Defensive End – 90 Julius Peppers; Defensive End – 97 Mario Addison; Defensive Tackle – 95 Dontari Poe; Defensive Tackle – 99 Kawann Short; Linebacker – 54 Shaq Thompson; Linebacker – 59 Luke Kuechly; Linebacker – 58 Thomas Davis; Cornerback – 24 James Bradberry; Cornerback – 47 Ross Cockrell; Safety – 29 Mike Adams; Safety – 21 Da’Norris Searcy

Specialists

Kicker – 9 Graham Gano; Punter – 5 Michael Palardy; Long Snapper – 44 J.J. Jansen

Biggest Question

Will Cam Newton excel in a Norv Turner offense?

Norv Turner takes over the Panthers offense from Mike Shula. Shula had the Panthers ranked 19th in yards in the NFL and 12th in points. Turner’s offense can be described an “Air Coryell” style system. It is designed to stretch the field and create big plays with a downfield passing attack.

Quarterback Cam Newton has never been described as a good passer. He is a very big quarterback that can run. Some question whether he can be successful in a Norv Turner offense.

To Answer That Question

He will be fine.

The scheme itself should not hamper Newton’s ability to play football at a high level. Turner’s offense has several traits that should utilize Newton’s best assets. He has a big arm and a power running style. Turner’s offense also utilizes a versatile running back, receiving tight end that can stretch the field and tall wide receivers. They have all of those things.

Outlook

The Panthers are always there in the end. This year should be no different. However, the NFC is very deep this year. The 10-6 record the Panthers finish the season with will likely not be good enough to make the playoffs.