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There are still three questions left to be answered as the Panthers continue to prepare for the 2019 season

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The Panthers have answered some questions but three key ones remain.

Carolina Panthers v Chicago Bears Photo by David Banks/Getty Images

Over the course of this past offseason the Carolina Panthers have made a number of moves to provide answers to some of their biggest questions. They have adequately replaced four key starters in center Ryan Kalil, linebacker Thomas Davis, wide receiver Devin Funchess and defensive end Julius Peppers. They have improved the depth at key positions such as wide receiver, offensive tackle and defensive tackle. The early returns on the recent draft class look promising so far. To top it off, Cam Newton’s shoulder looks strong and at least close to 100 percent healed. Yet I still see three key questions left to answer during the preseason.

Is Cam Newton’s new throwing motion an improvement?

In the offseason Newton worked on retooling his throwing motion in the hopes of improving his accuracy. So far it’s been described as a work in progress. We know the new motion hasn’t affected his deep ball because he’s connected on a few of them during training camp. Yet we don’t know whether Newton’s new motion is fully ingrained in his play or whether he might revert back to old habits when under pressure. We will only get a limited opportunity in the second and third preseason games to evaluate the new motion. It is the short and intermediate throws to keep an eye on.

Can the Panthers offensive line protect the quarterback?

The Panthers only gave up 32 sacks last season but it seemed like a lot more. That is because Cam Newton was under a lot of pressure and obviously took a lot of hits. Like most quarterbacks Newton’s throws best from a clean pocket. Newton’s athleticism and veteran experience is the only reason he wasn’t sacked more. We will only get a limited look at the revamped offseason line where the goal will be to get the best five guys on the field at one time. It is safe to say the current alignment is fluid so these next two games will be critical to nailing down the starting five.

In particular who will protect Newton’s blind spot? The Panthers seem intent on keeping Taylor Moton at right tackle, admittedly his strongest position. The Panthers staff think Moton could be a Pro Bowler at right tackle. That leaves Darryl Williams and rookie Greg Little competing to start on the left side, two players unproven at left tackle at the NFL level. We don’t have much time to work this out.

Can the defense defend in the red zone?

The Panthers were dead last, as in No. 32 in the NFL, in defense goal to go percentage. If an opposing offense got inside the ten yard line against the Panthers they gave up a score 90.9 percent of the time. I imagine the switch to the 3-4 defense is partly in hopes of improving this performance metric. Having Gerald McCoy, Dontari Poe and Kawann Short up front will certainly help improve the goal line run defense.

An improved pass rush will help too. The Panthers weren’t much better on third and fourth down where they ranked No. 26 and No. 27 in the NFL respectively. They certainly appear faster off the edge with the additions of defensive ends Bruce Irvin and rookie Brian Burns. The biggest question is in the secondary, in particular at safety. Will the combination of Eric Reid and Tre Boston at safety gel in time to support a fast start? Opening against the NFC champion Los Angeles Rams with a new defensive scheme warrants the need for a short learning curve. Hopefully we will see the entire starting unit for at least a half against the Buffalo Bills to finally give us a preview of this new defensive scheme.

If the Panthers can answer these three questions sufficiently, then they will be a team competing week in and week out and could eventually earn a playoff spot.