Image Credit: (Jim Dedmon/USA Today Sports)
Written by: Nicholas Mullick Linkedin: https://www.linkedin.com/in/nicholas-mullick-354076184/
As many have known for the past week the Carolina Panthers have undergone a tremendous amount of change. Especially as the organization finally fired head coach Matt Rhule after a very disappointing tenure. That is not all as the Panthers also fired defensive coordinator Phil Snow along with assistant special teams coach Ed Foley. With the Panthers coaching changes in effect there are a lot of people that think the Panthers are going to start yet another rebuild. In my opinion that would be a huge mistake and instead of a rebuild, the Panthers should instead do a retool.
If you don’t know when a team retools, that basically means a team doesn’t get rid of every player, but just a portion of players and even adds players to keep them competitive. While they don’t have a great record now being 1-4 there are still a lot of solid pieces on the Carolina Panthers.
Just look at their defense as they have a ton of talent on their team. Their Linebacker core is one of the most underrated in the NFL today. Especially with Shaq Thompson and Frankie Luvu who have performed well for the team. I have been saying for many years Luvu is one of the hidden gems when he played for the Jets. It just sucks the Jets did not use him well and broke out with Carolina. Even though Corey Littleton is not the player he was, he is still a decent veteran piece on this team. The defensive line is still solid with Derrick Brown and Matt Ioannidis. The pass rush while needing work has Brian Burns who has developed into a great player on this team. Their secondary is a bit problematic, excluding CB Jaycee Horn and S Jeremy Chin. Point is that there are pieces on this defense and compared to the offense the defense does not have a lot of problems.
The issues with the Panthers to me on the field mainly involve the offense. Mainly due to how the offense has an over reliance on RB Chrsitian McCaffrey. Now I think McCaffery, when healthy, is the best running back in the NFL. Keywords are “when healthy” and McCaffery has always been injured for the past few seasons and the offense has suffered as a result. I am surprised Carolina did not invest in a backup as D’Onta Foreman stinks and Chuba Hubbard is not a great option either.
Another problem is that the Panthers don’t have a lot of great receivers/tight ends excluding WR D.J. Moore. I would accept Laviska Shenault as another option, but he has durability issues. Robbie Anderson has been terrible this year and it has looked for a bit that he may be on the outs with the Panthers after his latest incident with the team on the sidlines. Not only did he contemplate retirement, but his name has been mentioned on the trading block for a while now. Terrance Marshall has also not worked out and is looking like he is a bust. The rest of the receiver core has not been great either and the tight end core is horrendous too. Ian Thomas and Tommy Tremble are terrible. Thomas has more upside as he is a better blocker, but both are not great options at tight end.
Of course we can all 100% say that the Carolina Panthers don’t have there long term QB on the roster. Baker Mayfield was once thought of being a steal when the Panthers acquired him for a late round pick. But Mayfield has been terrible this season and now is dealing with an ankle injury. Sam Darnold, the QB that the Panthers traded a ton of picks for, is still dealing with that ankle injury and even when healthy he has not performed great. PJ Walker was only a Panther because Matt Rhule coached him in Temple. He is likely out in Carolina once the season is over.
Many say Matt Corral could be the guy as the Panthers used a third round pick on him in the 2022 NFL Draft. There are three issues with this though. First he suffered a Lisfranc injury and those injuries are very tough for athletes to recover from. Second is he is going to have to learn a new playbook as Ben McAdoo is likely gone as the offensive coordinator once the season is over. Third is the new coaching staff might not be fans of Coral and go in a new direction. Which could affect him, although he does have potential, I am not sold on him being the full time starter.
The only two parts of the offense that has been fantastic is of course RB Christian McCaffery and the offensive line which has been a clear upgrade from last year. The Panthers have two good tackles in Ikem Ekwonu and Taylor Morton. Pat Efelin has been decent at center and Guard Austin Corbitt has been excellent this season. Brady Christensen was tried out at guard and the experiment so far has worked. The offensive line has been performing very well.
The point is this team still has a ton of talent on this team and they're still pretty young as the median age in Carolina is 26.2 years old (According to Spotrac.com). They should be a lot better than what they are now and the Panthers already solved one of the two big problems by firing Matt Rhule. The next step is to retool this offense as just going into a full rebuild with the entire team is just a bad idea. Especially with the talent this defense already has, it would be a big mistake if they part with the youth on their defense.
Even though next season they have around 17 million under the cap, they can retool the offense next season by restructuring deals and cutting Robbie Anderson the Panthers will have around 33 Million above the salary cap. That also does not factor any other trades that will be made on offense whether it is moving Christian McCaffery or D.J. Moore.
I think the goal is clear and that is to tank the season and secure a top draft pick to help bolster their defense by getting another pass rusher to pair with Burns or even get another secondary piece. I would not completely blow up the entire team and restart a rebuild yet. If they retool the team next offseason and still struggle then I would blow the team up again.
I wish the Carolina Panthers luck on what they do next in the post Rhule era. Hopefully Steve Wilks does a great job coaching Carolina the rest of the season.