Expectations for Carolina Panthers in 2020

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CHARLOTTE, NORTH CAROLINA - AUGUST 24: Christian McCaffrey #22 of the Carolina Panthers watches during a training camp session at Bank of America Stadium on August 24, 2020 in Charlotte, North Carolina. (Photo by Grant Halverson/Getty Images)

The Carolina Panthers are not a team built for immediate success. Or are they? There are many changing parts coming into the 2020 season, including a brand new head coach. What exactly are the expectations for the Panthers in 2020?

Expectations for Carolina Panthers in 2020

Tepper in charge

Naming David Tepper as the new owner of the team was the first step in taking this team in a much-needed different direction. The head man in charge is expected to come in and make an immediate impact on the team, which he’s done, although it wasn’t apparent right away. Subtle changes in the first season and since then have made his presence well-known. Being present at tailgates shows fans he is dedicated to them. Now, he needs to extend that to the field.

Hiring Matt Rhule as the new head coach is a move that has yet to be beneficial to this young team and only time will tell. Tepper seems to think he will come in and turn the team around, which is the hope. The big concern with bringing in this particular coach is not having many examples of sustained success with college coaches turned NFL coaches. What can he do to assure that he’ll be different? Coming into the 2020 season, he should try to win at least eight games. That will be difficult for a first-year coach, but the expectation is high for him.

He seems to have faith in general manager Marty Hurney but that might also be short-lived, depending on how the season goes.

What to expect from the offense

The expectations for the Carolina Panthers in 2020 have to, of course, include the offense. Teddy Bridgewater is now on the clock. He has been throwing the ball well in training camp, but Rhule said he has three quarterbacks that could be starters. Sounds more like there’s a competition in the making. In this case, a preseason would be a good thing.

Robby Anderson is shaping up to be one of the highlights of the Panthers training camp. Jonathan Alexander of the Charlotte Observer says Anderson continues to get good separation from the cornerbacks. He also adds another level of speed to the wide receivers group which fans are looking forward to, especially with the new quarterback in the mix.

What will be interesting will be what Rhule decides to do with Christian McCaffrey. The team has discussed the possibility of making the running back a returner as well. He returned the ball in 2017 with only minor success, but he got the crowd excited. But in 2018 and 2019, he accounted for more than 90 percent of the Panthers’ offense. Will that be a problem for him if he’s also a returner? Steve Smith was a successful returner for the Panthers and was the best player on the team, much like McCaffrey. Maybe they see a similar trait in him because of it.

Defense, defense, defense

Expectations for the Panthers in 2020 will not be high in terms of the defense. There were so many changes made on the defense over the last two seasons that folks just don’t expect much from them. Look out though because that just might be what they need to fuel them this year.

Rookie strong safety/outside linebacker Jeremy Chinn has made a ton of noise since stepping into Charlotte. Most notably as a running back-stuffing linebacker. Bill Riccette said in his article on the PanthersWire that Rhule has let him play different roles on the defense instead of “pigeonholing” him to one particular role. This is good for the Panthers, who have been known for utilizing players in multiple positions.

There’s really so much talent within that front line, but the question of “how will they gel together” is on the mind of all the fans and especially all the new coaches. Kawann Short and Brian Burns are doing a great job of leading Derrick Brown and Yetur Gross-Matos who will be vital to that line. Stopping opposing team offenses will be important and will most likely start with them.

Linebackers and defensive backs

Chinn would fit in nicely with Shaq Thompson and Tahir Whitehead as the third linebacker. Still not sold on their ability to move across the field the way Luke Kuechly and Thomas Davis did. Only time will tell. Whitehead was in Oakland the last two seasons and I’m sure one of those was overshadowed by Chicago Bears linebacker, Khalil Mack, so this should be a fresh start for him on a new squad with a chance to show the league what he can do. As quiet as he’s been on his last two teams, look for him to make a statement this year. Knowing that he may not be playing in the league much longer, may prove to be a significant motivation for the coming season.

Meanwhile, the defensive backs are the group of the most concern coming into the 2020 season. Donte Jackson leads this group along with Tre Boston, but how effective is this young group going to be? The Panthers added Eli Apple during the offseason so watch how he plays this season as well. Expectations for the Carolina Panthers in 2020 won’t be very high if these guys don’t come out their first few games and make a defensive statement. The experience of these young guys should manifest itself in year two or three if they keep them together. But this first year might be tough for them.

Final Expectations for the Carolina Panthers in 2020

The Panthers are a team in the rebuilding stage. As much as fans would like to see them dominate with Rhule in year one, they may have to face facts–this is a rebuilding year for them. If they are lucky, they’ll manage an 8-8 season.

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