Panthers: Newton, Funchess, McCaffrey looking like ‘Bigger’ Three

The trio is a force to be reckoned with for the Carolina Panthers….

Don’t be blinded by D.J. Moore during OTAs, because while he’s getting the type of positives you expect to hear about first-round picks. Devin Funchess is a (literally) bigger example of what next-level production for the Carolina Panthers in 2018 looks like. Cam Newton is obviously the trigger man, Christian McCaffrey will catch 100 balls– maybe by the fifth game?– but Funchess could become an elite, 1,200-yard guy

The facts about Devin Funchess production often become thoughts for what might’ve been if he hadn’t been playing through a shoulder injury at end of the season, a four-game stretch where he averaged 34.3 yards. That amounted to  about half his usual production. Adding an extra yard-plus (to 15) over his 13.4 average. he put up, and another catch per game would project to that elite 1,200 threat, and Turner’s offense has historically created lots of extra possibilities at outside positions.

Free agents Torrey Smith and Jarius Wright are veterans; Wright had two years of experience with Turner in Minnesota, and whatever edge that provides, the hook you’ll see in every analysis is they’re fast-defense stretchers. Funchess is the proverbial ‘leader in the clubhouse’ based on 2017 receiving corps. There’s a definite respect for the warrior mentality of his pushing through pain in any locker room, and at 6’4″, 225 lbs., he’s a jumbo target, and not afraid to go up in a crowd.

Perspective:  Muhsin Muhammad (1996-2004, 2008-09) is most noteworthy big receiver in Carolina Panthers team history. Physically he was, measuring in at  6’2”, 217 lbs. If rookie DJ Moore has serious hops with a 39” vertical, Funchess is willing to go up with anyone for jump balls. Quarterbacks like and reward that effort in the red zone, and in his fourth year, Funchess is the one of ‘Bigger Three’ whose productivity should keep fans interest pounding. 

‘Bigger’ is a term the modest McCaffrey is suffering through during OTAs, since he showed up a couple well-defined pounds over last year’s 205. He continues to demur on the appraisals of his ‘guns’, but as a player, he’s well-aware five more pounds just might be what it takes to break arm tackles by 300 lb. lineman.

“Hey, I’m still only 21, so I grew a little. It didn’t take that much to put on,” has become his mantra.

He was plenty tough to get on the ground last year, and nobody whose seen his lightening-in-a-bottle speed in the open is thinking he will lose that gaining a couple pounds. As the two-time Heisman hopeful was hanging up 80 catches in year one with the Panthers, there was already anticipation of what he could REALLY do, and this offense is– without iffy comparisons— what put LaDainian Tomlinson and Emmitt Smith into orbit statistically (and the Hall of Fame literally).

Newton is the centerpiece of this offense, and if quick reads and throws are elemental to what Turner wants overall, McCaffrey is going to get another significant uptick in his work load. Even with the addition of  C.J. Anderson — who made the Pro Bowl as a rookie with his catch/run touches– in the backfield, he’s someone defenses HAVE to watch out for *every play*.

In perspective with Newton’s expected quick offensive 1-2-3 evaluation in releasing throws, he-Funchess-McCaffrey are going to be just as directly linked this season.