It has been disappointing back-to-back seasons for the Carolina Panthers. So much so that the team has already started making major changes to not only the player roster but to the coaching staff as well. Looking at the 2020 Carolina Panthers, the roster will look quite different. Let’s take a look at how.
2020 Carolina Panthers Will Have A New Look
The biggest shock so far of the 2020 offseason was Luke Kuechly announcing his retirement at the age of 28. Fans are having a hard time wrapping their head around it. Let’s not forget that he suffered his second concussion in consecutive seasons in 2015 and 2016 — the second one leaving him disoriented and crying hysterically. He missed six games in 2016 and still managed to record 102 tackles, two sacks, a forced fumble, and an interception.
Kuechly said of retiring, “In my heart I know it’s the right thing to do.”
How do the Panthers plan on replacing him? They let Thomas Davis go after the 2018-19 season and he signed with the Los Angeles Chargers. Most of the work needs to be done on the defense which means several picks will be dedicated to it. Clemson linebacker Isaiah Simmons is the best one available in the 2020 NFL draft. Should they choose to wait until later to draft a linebacker, they could always look at picking up LSU’s Patrick Queen who may need some development. It looks like a job for Mike Siravo, the Panthers’ newly-hired linebackers coach. He coached at Temple and Baylor both under Matt Rhule.
One thing that is definitely different about the Panther’s roster in 2020 is the absence of Greg Olsen. He agreed to part ways with the franchise after nine seasons. Olsen came to the Panthers from the Chicago Bears where he had four seasons with Jay Cutler and a mediocre offense that flashed occasional greatness. He did have the pleasure of playing with Devin Hester and Muhsin Muhammad.
There are a couple of options already on the team that could serve as replacements for Olsen. Ian Thomas looked promising during his rookie season—grabbing two touchdowns and recording just over 300 receiving yards. He seemed to regress in 2019 but perhaps that was due to Olsen getting more playing time. With Olsen out of the picture, Thomas can have a statement season before becoming a free agent in 2021. What he does with it will be up to him.
If the Panthers are staying with the idea of getting a group of young guys and want to look in free agency, they could look at Atlanta Falcons tight end Austin Hooper. At 25 he’s already proven he can be a reliable target. The two-time Pro-Bowler has scored three or more touchdowns in each of his first four seasons. Hooper already proved he can be an asset to the team and if they decide to go away from Thomas, he would be a solid pick up.
The Panthers could decide to wait until the draft to pick up a tight end with several options available. Someone like Thaddeus Moss, son of Randy Moss, would be a great pick up. He played his junior and senior years at high schools in Charlotte which would be something for the team to look forward to. He didn’t have the most impressive numbers but he did score two touchdowns for LSU in the National Championship.
Rivera Out, Rhule In
Regardless of why it happened, the Panthers lost Ron Rivera as head coach with four games remaining in 2019. Enter Matt Rhule. He has an impressive college track record and ideally believes in players, as much as Rivera did. Will he bring a similar style to the Panthers—one where he tries to make the players into great men off the field as well? Possibly. But David Tepper seems to believe that he will bring his own flair to the Carolinas.
He did turn two programs around during his college tenure. Temple University went 2-10 his first season before having back-to-back 10-win seasons, and Baylor, while trying to save face from the Art Briles sex scandal. He could be the best thing to happen to the Panthers.
Looking at the 2020 Panthers
The Panthers are rebuilding, that is clear. What the timetable is for how long it takes this team to get back to former glory will be up to how they respond to the new coaches, whether they keep Cam Newton for the 2020 season, and how committed the players are.
The Panthers will look different in 2020. Will they be a super bowl contender?
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