Panthers depth chart 2020: Carolina’s projected Week 1 starters heading into OTAs, training camp


The Carolina Panthers are going to look very different in 2020. Ron Rivera is now with the Washington Redskins, the franchise parted ways with Cam Newton and Greg Olsen, plus Luke Kuechly is now a pro scout for Carolina instead of the Panthers’ star middle linebacker. First-year head coach Matt Rhule has quite a tough job in front of him, but he does have some nice pieces to work with.

The Panthers gave star running back Christian McCaffrey a huge extension and also signed former New Orleans Saints quarterback Teddy Bridgewater to be their new starter. While he has been out of the spotlight for several years now, he won all five games he started last year for the Saints when Drew Brees went down with a hand injury. Carolina also has a few impressive wideouts for Bridgewater to work with, as D.J. Moore, Robby Anderson and Curtis Samuel are capable starters who haven’t reached their potential yet. The defense could be a problem for this team, but that’s why Carolina used all seven picks in the 2020 NFL Draft on defensive players — becoming the first team in the common draft era to do so.

Like every NFL team in early June, the Panthers have a bloated roster which will be cut down in the coming months. Still, let’s take a look at what a what a rough depth chart would look like for Carolina right now. 

Rookies will be denoted with a (*).

Offense

While Bridgewater will be the starter, it’s hard not to be intrigued by who will back him up. Rhule went out and signed his former Temple quarterback as well as the XFL’s own Patrick Mahomes in P.J. Walker, who led the league in passing yards and touchdown passes. He was 5-0 in his games for the Houston Roughnecks and completed 65 percent of his throws for 1,338 passing yards, 15 touchdowns through the air and just four interceptions. Will Grier is someone the Panthers spent a third-round pick on last year, but he didn’t have an impressive rookie season. He has talent, but you’d have to think Rhule is much more comfortable with his former college quarterback.

The Panthers traded Trai Turner away for Russell Okung earlier this offseason — which solved a problem at left tackle but also created a problem at guard. The starting five of Okung, Dennis Daley, Matt Paradis, John Miller and Taylor Moton is not exactly going to strike fear into the hearts of pass rushers around the NFC South. The Panthers do have a few undrafted free agents I’m interested in along the offensive front though, including the 6-foot-7 Branden Bowen out of Ohio State and Juwann Bushell-Beatty out of Michigan. 

Carolina’s starting weapons look solid on paper, but they don’t have a ton of depth. Hopefully Moore, Anderson, Samuel and tight end Ian Thomas can stay healthy and produce at a high level for Bridgewater. 

Defense

The Panthers did lose a few defensive linemen in free agency this offseason, but Yetur Gross-Matos, Derrick Brown, Kawann Short and Brian Burns are very capable of holding down the line of scrimmage. I understand that Panthers fans weren’t excited about spending their first-round pick on an interior defensive lineman, but Brown really is one of the most talented players in this class. The unanimous All-American and SEC Defensive Player of the Year became one of the most feared defenders in college football by using his 6-foot-5, 326-pound frame to physically dominate opponents. He is definitely a nice piece for Rhule to use during this rebuild. 

The secondary is very much a question mark for the Panthers. James Bradberry is now a member of the New York Giants, so Donte Jackson is going to have to take over as the No. 1 cornerback. The Panthers did go out and sign former No. 10 overall pick Eli Apple, which is actually a move I really like. He’s only 24 and played some of his best football with the Saints last year, so he was worth taking a flier on. The Panthers need serious help at cornerback, so maybe Apple can develop into the legitimate starter many perceived him to be coming out of Ohio State.

With Eric Reid now gone, second-round pick Jeremy Chinn out Southern Illinois seems like a natural fit at the strong safety position. He’s an athletic freak who played both safety and cornerback in college, so maybe that versatility will come in handy. 

Special teams

Gano missed all of last season with an injury, but will hopefully return to Pro Bowl form in 2020. 





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