The Carolina Panthers have been eliminated from playoff contention in 2019 and are in line for a top ten draft pick.
It’s been a disaster of a season for the 2019 Carolina Panthers. To be fair, most teams who lose a starting quarterback in the third week of the season don’t make it very far before collapsing. Most teams also don’t have as much hope on the horizon as this franchise does guided by the leadership of owner David Tepper.
After the firing of Ron Rivera, Tepper has the opportunity to make a lasting mark on not only the franchise, but the entirety of the Carolinas. He will be looking to hire the fifth head coach in the expansion team’s short history, which can make or break his perception as a hands on, forward-thinking owner.
Although the season is lost, the chance to evaluate young players (and coaches) is more present than ever. In an audition-like setting against a surefire NFC contender, I’ll be keeping my eye on a few young members of the Carolina Panthers organization on Sunday.
TE Ian Thomas
I’d be pretty surprised if tight end Greg Olsen (who is in concussion protocol) plays again in 2019. I’d be less surprised if he’s played his last NFL snap. With Olsen on the outs, the Panthers at least have an enticing heir to his spot in second year tight end Ian Thomas.
Thomas, coming off his best game of the year with five receptions for 57 yards and a touchdown, should see many opportunities to shine as the season winds down. Against the Falcons, he showed us why he has such strong potential with a blistering run after catch and a red zone touchdown to boot. He also showed his major inconsistency with several missed blocks and a few drops, one being bobbled into an interception.
These late season reps will be huge for Thomas’ development as he gears up to potentially take over as the starter in 2020. I’ll be watching him closely to see if he can be a more consistent pass catcher and blocker on Sunday.
QB Will Grier
The first appearance on my weekly list for the 100th overall 2019 draft pick. Will Grier has yet to take an NFL regular season snap. Interim head coach Perry Fewell has reiterated that Kyle Allen gives Carolina its best chance to win, naming him the starter for Sunday’s home matchup against Seattle.
If things go south quickly for Kyle Allen, and I believe they will (again), Fewell may need to shake things up to give the offense some energy. How do you shake up an anemic offense that has nothing to play for? You give your rookie quarterback a shot to show his stuff.
Giving Grier live game reps could do wonders for his development. Besides, do the Panthers really want to go into 2020 having a guy who’s never taken a live snap competing for the backup job? That’s preposterous. I think we will see Grier make his debut this week, and I’m truly looking forward to it.
OC Scott Turner
Scott Turner didn’t show much in his first game as the offensive play caller. Now, his offensive line and quarterback didn’t do him any favors, but a great play caller will recognize and work around these deficiencies.
It was an interesting wrinkle to use Curtis Samuel a few times in the backfield. It was a relief to see the offense lean less on McCaffrey. But we need to see more out of Turner (especially in the red zone) if he intends to prove worthy of staying with this organization into the next coaching regime.
Seattle is the seventh worst defense in the league when it comes to yielded yards per game (375.5), which is somehow worse than Carolina. The Seahawks give up the league’s fourth most passing yards per game (268.4). This isn’t your older brother’s L.O.B. Seattle secondary.
Scott Turner has an opportunity to take advantage of a poor defense this week and I’ll be watching closely to see if he works around his team’s shortcomings to get his playmakers involved.