One of the most slept-on teams in the NFL is the Carolina Panthers.
I can’t quite consider them “under-rated” since they are still rebuilding, but they are heading in the right direction.
Matt Rhule was the perfect hire for this team since he excels at turning losers into winners.
He brought the 2-10 Temple Owls to 10-2 in his third season and turned the 1-11 Baylor Bears into an 11-1 team also in his third season.
At one point today, Matt Rhule paused practice to bring his whole team together to remind them about the importance of wanting to be coached and trying to get better on every play.
An important lesson that applies in all sports at all levels. His energy is infectious. pic.twitter.com/7Ef54Vr3Cn
— Field Yates (@FieldYates) January 28, 2021
This is the speech I want to see, not some hot head that wants to bite people’s knee caps off.
The defense was obviously a point of emphasis in last seasons draft:
- DL Derrick Brown
- EDGE Yetur Gross-Matos
- S Jeremy Chinn
- CB Troy Pride Jr.
- S Kenny Robinson
- DL Bravvion Roy
- CB Stanley Thomas-Oliver III
I have to say, most of these picks panned out.
Jeremy Chinn has been a certified STUD for the Carolina Panthers, guess what? The man is just a rookie!
🔥 24 Tackles
🔥 9 Interceptions
🔥 2 Touchdowns
— Brad S (@AMGI_Brad) January 27, 2021
That means the weaknesses must be on offense and should be the main focus in free agency for Matt Rhule and GM Scott Fitterer.
1: TE Jonnu Smith
The Panthers have not had a reliable TE since Greg Olson, but his production and health declined around 2016.
After that, it’s been the Ian Thomas and Chris Manhetz show.
So yes, this is definitely an area of improvement and Jonnu Smith has been an effective pass catcher the past two seasons with the Titans.
His skill set is especially useful in the red zone with his 6’3″-248 pound frame.
This is what the Panthers severely lack on offense and it showed in the 2020 season.
If they cannot hit the deep pass and score on something long from outside the red zone, they struggled to get in the endzone.
They only scored touchdowns on 50.88% of their trips to the red zone, which ranked 28th in the league.
This is the main piece the offense is missing since they have two great outside WRs in DJ Moore and Robbie Anderson.
Teams with two WRs that accrued 1,000+ Receiving Yards apiece:
— Dustin Baker (@DustBaker) January 27, 2021
2: Any Guard
This is probably their biggest area of need because of depth and free agents.
The Panthers desperately need to add depth but at a discount, so we won’t even talk about Brandon Scherff.
If I had to recommend a few:
The best part about all of them is they are under the age of 30 and they won’ cost you more than $8M a season, except Thuney.
Since entering the NFL in 2016, no other player has played more offensive snaps over the last four years than Patriots guard Joe Thuney (4,410).
— Pats-Stats (@Pats__Stats) September 22, 2020
If you want to keep Teddy Bridgewater, PJ Walker or whoever else is behind center upright in 2021, this needs to be addressed in free agency.
3: WR/RB Curtis Samuel
While Robbie Anderson and DJ Moore get all the praise for having a bunch of yards, Samuel is the one making play after play.
@ravens4dummies would you say Lamar needs WRs who separate or have a big catch radius?
Curtis Samuel has a 3.5 yd separation rate. Hollywood has a 3.3 yd separation rate.
Allen Robinson has a 2.3 yd separation rate according to next generation stats.
— Timetoflymyguy (@readyfor_WAR) January 23, 2021
The tweet is a call for the Ravens to sign Samuel, and there are a lot of other teams coming for him.
The Panthers have a great trio with Moore, Anderson, and Samuel that can stretch the field in every direction.
Adding a TE like Jonnu Smith adds a presence down the seam that is freed up by Moore and Anderson sprinting down the field.
If those are all covered up, you have either Samuel or Christian McCaffrey as your outlet.
The great thing about both of them is they can take a catch behind the line of scrimmage and turn it into 2 jukes and a first down.
If you want to build a Kansas City Chiefs like offense, you need to retain talent like Samuel and keep building on what you can already do.