Panthers Preview Capsule
CAROLINA PANTHERS (6-10)
New faces: DE Julius Peppers, CB Captain Munnerlyn, S Mike Adams, LT Matt Kalil, RB Christian McCaffrey, WR Russell Shepard, WR Curtis Samuel, LT Matt Kalil.
Key losses: FB Mike Tolbert, LT Michael Oher, RT Mike Remmers, WR Ted Ginn Jr., WR Philly Brown, LB A.J. Klein, S Tre Boston, DE Kony Ealy.
Strengths: Added Peppers to defense that was second in NFL in sacks in 2016. Still have two of game’s best LBs in Luke Kuechly and Thomas Davis. QB Cam Newton was league MVP two years ago and is motivated to prove himself after difficult 2016. Newton not expected to run as much this year after shoulder surgery. Have strong 1-2 punch at RB with starter Jonathan Stewart and shifty backup McCaffrey. Greg Olsen is only TE in history with three straight 1,000-yard receiving seasons.. Added C Ryan Kalil’s brother Matt to upgrade left tackle position.
Weaknesses: Second-year CBs James Bradberry and Daryl Worley are improving, but still young. Worley has struggled in preseason. Team’s safeties — Kurt Coleman and Adams — aren’t great in run support. Offensive line struggled to protect Newton last season, but played well in preseason. Depth, particularly on defense, could be problem. K Graham Gano needs to be more consistent.
Fantasy Players To Watch: With better O-line in front of him, Newton should have bounceback season after throwing 19 TDs and 14 INTs in 2016. McCaffrey may not start, but has potential to be dynamic playmaker with exceptional quickness and cutting ability. RB Jonathan Stewart still running strong at 30, should see more goal line carries. WR Kelvin Benjamin has looked exceptional in preseason and appears poised for breakout season. Olsen still reliable and huge part of offense.
Expectations: Panthers certainly have talent to win fourth NFC South title in five years and bounce back from disappointing year. Team was No. 1 in offense in 2015, but fell to middle of pack last year. Have added tremendous speed in McCaffrey, Samuel and Shepard to help ease burden on Newton. Despite losing coordinator Sean McDermott, defense could be better than ever after adding experienced veterans Peppers, Munnerlyn and Adams.
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