Since the Carolina Panthers Super Bowl appearance in 2015, the Panthers have only recorded one winning season. Since the start of the 2018 season, Carolina boasts a record of 17-31. What will it take for the Panthers to get over the hump in 2021? Below are three things that will give them a chance.
This is a pretty obvious one. It's hard for many teams to have success when they have a number of key starters or role players go down. Since the Panthers are one of the youngest teams in the entire NFL, they need to stay as healthy as possible. Carolina is short on experience and can't necessarily afford injuries at key positions. Last year, Christian McCaffrey missed 13 games due to injury but that was about the only big loss Carolina had in terms of injury. I suppose you could throw in Kawann Short too and a banged-up Donte Jackson. Staying healthy is going to be monumental, especially in a division as rigorous as the NFC South.
Defense Plays Up to Expectations
Do the Panthers have to have a top 10 defense to claim a winning record at the season's end? I don't believe so. However, I do believe with the pieces that they have added in the draft and through free agency that they are 100% capable of being among the very best in the league. The pass rush was solidified with the addition of Haason Reddick, the linebacking unit was fixed with Denzel Perryman, and the back end really got some attention with Jaycee Horn, A.J. Bouye, and Rashaan Melvin. If the defense lives up to expectations, they should be one of the better units in the league which will, in turn, help them win more games.
Darnold Playing Within Himself
Much like the defense, Sam Darnold does not need to be a top 10 quarterback for the Panthers to be competitive. This is the first season in his NFL career where he won't have the entire weight of the offense on his shoulders, he's going to have some help. This is a building and foundation year for both Darnold and the Panthers. A year to learn the offense, gain chemistry with the receivers, backs, and offensive line, and improving decision-making and ball security. If Darnold can just take what is given to him and trust his receivers to make plays, then there's no reason the Panthers can't reach a winning record.
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