Panthers turn to Rhule, Bridgewater as part of rebuild
CAROLINA PANTHERS (5-11)
CAMP SITE: Charlotte, North Carolina
LAST YEAR: Panthers floundered following 5-3 start, costing head coach Ron Rivera his job. Carolina lost QB Cam Newton two games into 2019 season with foot issues. Backup Kyle Allen rallied Panthers for five wins in next six games before turnovers caught up with him. Carolina’s defense allowed league’s second-most points (29.4) and NFL-high 32 touchdowns rushing. Panthers lost their final eight games.
IMPORTANT ADDITIONS: Coach Matt Rhule, QB Teddy Bridgewater, WRs Robby Anderson, Seth Roberts and Pharoh Cooper, LT Russell Okung, G John Miller, DE Stephen Weatherly, DTs Derrick Brown and Zach Kerr, LB Tahir Whitehead, CB Eli Apple, DB Juston Burris.
IMPORTANT LOSSES: QB Cam Newton, QB Kyle Allen, TE Greg Olsen, G Trai Turner, DE Mario Addison, DTs Gerald McCoy, Dontari Poe and Vernon Butler, LBs Luke Kuechly and Bruce Irvin, CBs James Bradberry and Russ Cockrell, S Eric Reid.
PANDEMIC CHALLENGES: Developing cohesion and chemistry will be difficult task given turnover on coaching staff and roster. Rhule arrived in Charlotte when COVID-19 was hitting its stride, has been working from home and hasn’t met “97%” of his players in person. Bridgewater’s familiarity with offense is plus given he previously worked under new coordinator Joe Brady in New Orleans.
CAMP NEEDS: Panthers will look to replace nine starters on defense, including Kuechly, longtime anchor and perennial Pro Bowl selection. Much has to be hashed out on defense, including transitioning back to 4-3 scheme.
EXPECTATIONS: RB Christian McCaffrey is electrifying, but Carolina lacks experience around him. Panthers are in rebuild mode and expectations remain low for 2020. Owner David Tepper knows it might take a while to build consistent winner. Team’s success under Bridgewater this season could determine if Panthers draft quarterback early next year.
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