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2019 NFL Roster Breakdown: Carolina Panthers


Roster Changes

 

Key additions

WR Chris Hogan, C Matt Paradis, DT Gerald McCoy, OLB Bruce Irvin

 

Key losses

RB Kenjon Barner, WR Devin Funchess, WR Damiere Byrd, OT Matt Kalil, C Ryan Kalil, DE Julius Peppers, OLB Thomas Davis, CB Captain Munnerlyn, S Mike Adams

 

2019 draft class

OLB Brian Burns (1.16), OT Greg Little (2.37), QB Will Grier (3.100), OLB Christian Miller (4.115), RB Jordan Scarlett (5.154), OT Dennis Daley (6.212), WR Terry Godwin (7.237)

 

Projected Starters

 

Offense

QB: Cam Newton
RB: Christian McCaffrey
WR: D.J. Moore
WR: Chris Hogan
WR: Curtis Samuel
TE: Greg Olsen
LT: Greg Little
LG: Daryl Williams
C: Matt Paradis
RG: Trai Turner
RT: Taylor Moton

 

Defense

DE: Kawaan Short
DT: Dontari Poe
DE: Gerald McCoy
OLB: Mario Addison
ILB: Luke Kuechly
ILB: Shaq Thompson
OLB: Brian Burns
CB: James Bradberry
CB: Donte Jackson
S: Eric Reid
S: Rashaan Gaulden

 

Team Outlook

 

Notable depth

QB Will Grier, QB Kyle Allen, RB Cameron Artis-Payne, RB Jordan Scarlett, RB Elijah Holyfield, FB Alex Armah, WR Jarius Wright, WR Torrey Smith, TE Ian Thomas, OT Dennis Daley, G Greg Van Roten, DL Kyle Love, DL Vernon Butler, OLB Bruce Irvin, OLB Christian Miller, ILB Antwione Williams, CB Ross Cockrell, CB Kevon Seymour, S Colin Jones

 

Biggest strength: Offensive line

This is a bit of a projection considering we haven’t seen the group play together, but Carolina is suddenly very formidable up front after signing Matt Paradis and drafting Greg Little (who was a top-15 prospect for me). If everyone stays healthy, the starting five should be among the best in football, so it will be fun to see them gel as they open holes for Christian McCaffrey and give Cam Newton time to find his dynamic receivers.

 

Biggest weakness: Safety

The Panthers clearly feel comfortable with Eric Reid as a solid starter at one safety spot after giving him a three-year, $22-million deal in the offseason, but even if he meets expectations, the position still looks like a weakness, especially if  2018 third-round pick Rashaan Gaulden (zero starts as a rookie) doesn’t step up. Also, while Colin Jones is a very good special-teamer, Carolina’s depth isn’t great on the backend.

 

Position battle to watch: Quarterback

Cam Newton is expected to be fully recovered from offseason shoulder surgery by Week 1, but in general, injures to an athlete’s throwing shoulder can be very tricky to come back from And remember, Cam had a torn rotator cuff repaired in March of 2017, so it’s not like this is a first-time occurrence. If for some reason the former NFL MVP cannot get back to full strength by the opener, it will be interesting to see who Carolina would be forced to turn to out of Kyle Allen (an undrafted second-year pro) and third-rounder Will Grier, as the former played great in limited action as a rookie, but the team just spent a top-100 pick on Grier.

 

One more thought

Assuming health cooperates, I think this will be a big year for Newton’s future. Besides being a mobile quarterback entering his age-30 campaign, Cam could be traded or released with almost no cap hit after the season, and the Panthers would potentially have a shot to draft their quarterback of the future next April in what looks like a stacked 2020 class. Unfortunately, the schedule looks like it could set up for another second-half disappointment, so practice reps need to be managed to keep Newton’s shoulder healthy and allow him to prove he will be a force into his 30s.

 

Early over/under: 8 wins (via CBS Sports)

Over. I love what Carolina did up front on both sides of the ball, including a transition to more of a 3-4 alignment that will take advantage of their defensive personnel. Even in the competitive NFC South, I’m leaning towards 9-7 or 10-6 over 7-9.

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