Everyone loves a reclamation project.
It’s reflected in what permeates network TV. Countless reality shows that restore and refurbish cars, houses, and bars are on nearly every corner of the guides of network providers and streaming services. You could even argue that reclamation was a huge reason David Tepper purchased the team five years ago.
It’s just something about the idea of taking something that’s been abandoned or dilapidated, restoring it, and reviving and shaping it into one’s own image that draws people in.
The Carolina Panthers in the Tepper era have been a long-term reclamation project with setbacks and hard-learned lessons along the way. After a disappointing 7-10 campaign in 2022, Tepper cleaned house. Gone are the remnants of the Matt Rhule regime. Joining new Panthers head coach Frank Reich is a super team of coaches such as Duce Staley, Thomas Brown, Josh McCown and Ejiro Evero.
Carolina traded wide receiver DJ Moore to Chicago weeks ahead of the Draft for the No. 1 pick and selected Bryce Young. With Young the Panthers have a franchise quarterback for the first time since Cam Newton. They also have a stout and solid defense that made some acquisitions, such as Justin Houston and Shy Tuttle, to add to their front seven.
With a revamped coaching staff, stability at quarterback, and more potency to an already solid defense, the expectations are high for this year’s squad.
In the preseason, head coach Reich made it a point to roll out a vanilla offense and used the preseason for experimentation. While what Reich and offensive coordinator Thomas Brown are cooking up is unknown until Sunday’s Week 1 matchup against the Atlanta Falcons, there are some hints to what they have in store for this unit.
For an offense with a rookie QB at the helm and that is more run-dominant than not, look for Brown to infuse some of his work as the Los Angeles Rams running back coach in this unit.
The Jet Sweep is an end around that’s predicated on sound weak side blocking at the point of attack. Take note of the Rams’ tight ends in their blocking duties and where Woods is running in that second clip. It’s always to the D gap to the outside.
Young has shown tremendous poise in training camp and in the preseason. Even with that, there will be adversity as he acclimates himself through his first season. He will have tight end Hayden Hurst and receiver Adam Thielen as dependable security blankets
The offensive line is still an area of concern. They will have to hold up consistently, since there’s a lot riding on how quickly Young can develop. His health and availability will be paramount
Defensively is where Carolina will really shine. Cornerbacks Donte Jackson, Jaycee Horn and CJ Henderson are healthy. Linebacker Brian Burns has a solid pass rusher in Justin Houston to play off of. New defensive coordinator Ejiro Evero will have a 3-4 base to work with. The idea here is having an extra pass rusher to disguise to gain an advantage on opposing offenses. It’s the element of surprise factor of not knowing where the extra rusher is.
Look for Linebacker Shaq Thompson to play a key role in many of these sets, since he is sound in zone coverage and matches up with opposing running backs.
The NFC South isn’t a tough division to navigate. The Panthers were a blown game and play away from winning the division with a ‘losing’ record. Even with a new staff, a new quarterback and new schemes, the division is there for the taking.
Projection 10-8 Win NFC South/ Wildcard.