The 2020 Carolina Panthers ain’t your granddaddy’s Panthers. This year’s team will look very different from the core that comprised the Ron Rivera era. Most of the veterans who won’t be returning will be on the wrong side of 30 in the upcoming season, including guys like Cam Newton, Greg Olsen, Mario Addison, Gerald McCoy, Greg Van Roten, Dontari Poe, Jarius Wright. Kyle Love, and Colin Jones.
The previous iteration of the Carolina Panthers was getting a bit long in the tooth for a team that hadn’t won a playoff game since 2015. By overhauling the roster the Panthers won’t just look different this year, they’ll also look younger. Much, much younger. Just take a look at the ages the Panthers projected starters and key contributors will turn in 2020, per Football Reference.
Offensive skill: QB - Teddy Bridgewater (27); RB - Christian McCaffrey (24); WR - Robby Anderson (27), Curtis Samuel (24), DJ Moore (23); TE - Ian Thomas (24)
Offensive line: OT - Russell Okung (31), Taylor Moton (26), Greg Little (23); G - Michael Schofield (30), John Miller (27), Dennis Daley (24); C - Matt Paradis (31)
Defensive line: DT - Kawann Short (31), Bravvion Roy (23), Derrick Brown (22); EDGE - Stephen Weatherly (26), Christian Miller (24), Brian Burns (22), Yetur Gross-Matos (22)
Linebackers: Tahir Whitehead (30), Marquis Haynes (27), Shaq Thompson (26), Jermaine Carter (25)
Secondary: CB - Corn Elder (26), Donte Jackson (25), Cole Luke (25), Troy Pride (22); S - Tre Boston (28), Juston Burris (27), Jeremy Chinn (22)
Forget about Carolina’s players being on the wrong side of 30. Of the 31 players who will likely contribute most to the Panthers this year, only four of them will be older than 27 - Russell Okung (31), Matt Paradis (31), Kawann Short (31) and Tre Boston (28). This is exactly the type of roster you want to see for a team that’s rebuilding and has given its new head coach, Matt Rhule, a seven-year contract.
Now, there are also downsides to youth. The combination of a new coaching staff and a relatively inexperienced roster trying to come together during an offseason being derailed by a global pandemic will mean there will be instances of coaching mishaps, time management issues, blown coverages, and missed assignments. Oh, and there may be plenty of losing too.
My general sense from most Panthers fans is we understand 2020 will be a rebuilding year where success is measured more on week-to-week progress than striving for double-digit wins. While I’m appreciative of everything Ron Rivera did during his tenure in Carolina, I’m glad he’s not coaching this team this year. Rivera erred too often on giving snaps to veterans over younger players. It’s doubtful Coach Rhule will fall into the same trap.
Even if Matt Rhule wanted to give snaps to veterans, it would be hard for him to find them on the 2020 Panthers roster. This year the kids are going to play.