Not many folks outside of Charlotte believe the Carolina Panthers will be a very competitive team in year two under head coach Matt Rhule. However, that can't be said about ESPN football analyst Dan Orlovsky who called the Panthers a team that will "surprise people" this season in a recent tweet.
Ten wins may seem like a bit of a bold statement but he did note that it would take Darnold playing exceptionally well to happen. I'm not quite ready to slap up my 2021 record prediction for the Panthers just yet but everything that Orlovsky stated is 100% true.
Carolina's defense was average a year ago but had several young players occupying major roles such as DT Derrick Brown, DE Yetur Gross-Matos, DT Bravvion Roy, and S Jeremy Chinn. This offseason, they drafted arguably the most gifted corner in the draft, Jaycee Horn, 8th overall, and also signed A.J. Bouye and Rashaan Melvin to sure things up in the secondary. As for the front seven, they now have a formidable pass rush with the duo of Haason Reddick and Brian Burns. A year ago, it was Burns that was the Panthers' only legitimate threat to consistently get to the quarterback. Reddick is coming off of a 12 sack season and will draw some attention away from Burns. Not to mention, the linebacking unit is vastly improved with the signings of Denzel Perryman and Frankie Luvu.
On the offensive side of the ball, Sam Darnold has everything an NFL quarterback dreams of: a dynamic duo at receiver in DJ Moore and Robby Anderson, an elite running back like Christian McCaffrey, and a young, innovative offensive coordinator such as Joe Brady. He had none of that during his time with the Jets so this should be the first time in his career where we see Darnold play like the quarterback we all expected him to be when he entered the league.
Carolina may not contend for a playoff spot in 2021 but there should be an improvement on both sides of the ball which will set the team up for success in 2022.
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