Drilling in: Offense

© Jim Dedmon-USA TODAY Sports

Panthers unit by unit analysis

QUARTERBACKS: Starter - Cam Newton. Backups - Garrett Gilbert, Taylor Heinicke, Kyle Allen.

Newton had a choppy preseason in 2017 to say the least as he was coming off shoulder surgery, creating a severe reduction in his practice repetitions. Given that the Panthers have a new coordinator, Newton's role in training camp figures to be particularly important. Yet it can't be all about Newton because the Panthers no longer have a veteran backup, so that means they will begin the grooming of a second-string quarterback during this process as well.

RUNNING BACKS: Starters - Christian McCaffrey, C.J. Anderson. Backups - Alex Armah, Cameron Artis-Payne, Kenjon Barner, Reggie Bonnafon, Elijah Hood.

Anderson is coming off a 1,000-yard rushing season with the Denver Broncos, so despite releasing the franchise's all-time leading rusher in Jonathan Stewart there's no decline expected. In fact, the group needs to pick up the pace, particularly in terms of the ground attack. McCaffrey offers so much more than a traditional tailback and he's more equipped to be a factor catching the ball. If Anderson comes close to repeating his 2017 with the new team, a lot of the issues could be solved. Artis-Payne is a solid backup for this group.

TIGHT ENDS: Starter - Greg Olsen. Backups - Chris Manhertz, Evan Baylis, Jason Vander Laan, Ian Thomas.

Olsen is one of the best in the game and his presence tends to be a comfort for Newton. It will be worth monitoring if he starts slowing down, but he gives no indication he's expecting any sort of decline though he missed about half of last season with an injury. Ed Dickson picked up so much clout as Olsen's fill-in that he was able to go elsewhere so establishing depth here is one of the keys. Manhertz has time with the team, so that's a plus but Thomas could become a factor in a hurry if he shows strides this summer.

WIDE RECEIVERS: Starters - Devin Funchess, Torrey Smith. Backups - DJ Moore, Rasheed Bailey, Damiere Byrd, Austin Duke, Mose Frazier, Bug Howard, Fred Ross, Chris Samuel, Jarius Wright.

Funchess became the No. 1 receiver last season after the trade of Kelvin Benjamin, so he'll have to prove he's cut out for that across the long haul. Smith, who arrived in a trade from the Philadelphia Eagles, is an ideal addition, with experience and explosiveness that has frequently been lacking among the wideouts. The Panthers used their first draft selection on Moore, so count on him getting a close look as he learns the ropes. The key could be Samuel, a second-year pro who had an injury-riddled preseason and regular season last year as a rookie. His speed, if used right, is a difference maker.

OFFENSIVE LINEMEN: Starters - LT Matt Kalil, LG Amini Silatolu, C Ryan Kalil, RG Trai Turner, RT Daryl Williams. Backups - T/G Taylor Moton, G Kyle Bosch, G Quinterrius Eatmon, C Kyle Friend, G Taylor Hearn, G Dorian Johnson, C Tyler Larsen, C Greg Van Roten, G Brendan Mahon, G Norman Price, T Jeremiah Sirles.

The second season with two Kalil brothers on the roster might not start with so much attention, so that's likely a good thing. Ryan Kalil dealt with a neck injury that lasted too long last year, while Matt Kalil, who was the newcomer to the Panthers, wasn't as effective as he needed to be. The Panthers have to replace All-Pro Andrew Norwell, who bounced off to Jacksonville. Moton provided a lot of encouragement as a versatile lineman last year, so he could be ready for a full-time role if that's necessary.

Comments