Why the Carolina Panthers and their defense can return to the NFL Playoffs
Carolina’s defense is so good that if Baker Mayfield doesn’t give away games, the Panthers can return to the playoffs for the first time since 2017.
Few coaches have the pressure that Matt Rhule faces this year.
In two seasons at the helm of the Carolina Panthers, Rhule is 10-23 and franchise owner David Tepper is not going to allow another losing season without dealing consequences.
The battle of the quarterbacks
Mayfield arrived via trade with the Cleveland Browns, and he wants to show Carolina that he can be a franchise quarterback.
Something similar to what Darnold wanted to demonstrate last season.
Mayfield and Darnold are from two top collegiate teams and the loser of this interesting battle will be awarded the nickname of “bust”.
The task ahead for Mayfield
Mayfield passed for 3,010 yards in his final season with the Browns, becoming the ninth quarterback in history with at least 3,000 yards in each of his first four years in the league.
The Heisman trophy-winner must show consistency on the field and prove that he may be able to lead Carolina back to the playoffs after three seasons with just five wins.
Off the field, his challenge is to show maturity and behave as true franchise quarterbacks do: level-headed through thick and thin.
Darnold had a promising debut with the Panthers in 2021 as he became the first quarterback in history with five rushing touchdowns in the first four games with a new team.
At the end of the campaign, the tally was 2,527 passing yards, nine touchdowns, 13 interceptions and a mediocre 4-7 record.
Whoever wins the battle for QB1 will have one of the most dynamic running backs in the NFL in the backfield. Unfortunately, injuries have considerably diminished the career of Christian McCaffrey, who in seven games in 2021 had 442 rushing yards and a single touchdown.
Chuba Hubbard was the leading rushing back with 612 yards and was second among rookies with five touchdowns.
D.J. Moore (1,157 yards) joined Steve Smith as the only wide receivers in franchise history with at least a thousand yards in three straight seasons.
Robbie Anderson (53 receptions, 519 yards, five touchdowns) is a good complement to Moore, but it remains to be seen if free agent Rashard Higgins can be the WR3 this season needs.
The Panthers depend on defense
In 2021, Carolina’s defense was second in the NFL in yards allowed per game (305.9) and fourth against the pass (192.1).
The good news for the Panthers is that the three leaders of that defense are back: defensive end Brian Burns, safety Jeremy Chinn and cornerback Donte “Action” Jackson.
Burns was second on the team with nine sacks, and this year he should produce and make up for the departure of Haason Reddick. Chinn led with 106 tackles and is the only NFL defensive back with at least 100 tackles the past two seasons, while Jackson led the perimeter with 10 passes defended.
This defensive unit is so good, that if the quarterbacks don’t give away games, then the Panthers can not only compete in the NFC South, but think about returning to the playoffs for the first time since 2017.
Record in 2021: 5-12
Stadium: Bank of America Stadium
Super Bowl Titles: 0
Head coach: Matt Rhule
Offensive Coordinator: Ben McAdoo
Defensive Coordinator: Phil Snow
Carolina Panthers 2022 calendar
|Week 1||Week 2||Week 3||Week 4||Week 5|
|Cleveland||at N.Y. Giants||New Orleans||Arizona||San Francisco|
|Week 6||Week 7||Week 8||Week 9||Week 10|
|at L.A. Rams||Tampa Bay||at Atlanta||at Cincinnati||Atlanta|
|Week 11||Week 12||Week 13||Week 14||Week 15|
|at Baltimore||Denver||BYE||at Seattle||Pittsburgh|
|Week 16||Week 17||Week 18|
|Detroit||at Tampa Bay||at New Orleans|