The 2018 Panthers are bad. We know this now. Sitting at 6-9 after a 6-2 start, it is clear that they need work. And there are many issues that we’ve seen or worried about that finally reared their ugly head on Sunday.
The Panthers need to invest in a backup quarterback. I enjoyed the toughness Taylor Heinicke showed following his elbow injury, and I think his story is great. However, winning in the NFL isn’t about being a great guy with a nice story. The Panthers were spoiled with Derek Anderson, and even Joe Webb as a do it all guy who also had starting quarterback experience.
I applaud the efforts of Heinicke and Kyle Allen, but in 2019 they need a better answer, especially with Newton facing shoulder issues and an uncertain recovery time. That is my first priority on my Ron Rivera letter to Santa.
My second priority is a left tackle. Matt Kalil could be that guy, but as a GM I wouldn’t bet on that. Tackles signed off the streets like Chris Clark or guys who were about to be cut like Marshall Newhouse are not viable 16 game options.
The Panthers were in position to score way more than 10 points on Sunday but their glaring issue at LT cause Heinicke to get beat up worse than many games we’ve seen Cam Newton play. Taylor Moton might be that guy, but then you need a right tackle, especially since Daryl Williams is likely gonna get a fat paycheck as a free agent in 2019. They need to invest in the offensive line, and not just for Cam Newton’s sake.
This team still has many pieces to be optimistic about. Ian Thomas looked great for his second straight week, Curtis Samuel caught seven passes, and Christian McCaffery cemented himself in NFL history in his SECOND season as the runningback with the most catches in a single year. James Bradberry looked like an elite corner, the linebackers are still amazing, and the defensive line had some bright spots.
This team really isn’t that far off from being a contender, but issues like the offensive line, pass rush, and backup quarterback were problems we walked into 2018 seeing. Guess what? They still are. Strategic investment and finding a solution for two of those three problems sees the Panthers being more than competitive. Thankfully David Tepper knows how to invest. He just needs to evaluate the coaching and personnel around him.
This team is better than 6-9, and they can be WAY better if you address these issues. It isn’t that hard, but they cannot continue to go without some attention. This is the NFL, and windows close quickly.