Carolina Panthers: Can Reggie Bonnafon improve on promising first year?

(Photo by Bobby Ellis/Getty Images) Reggie Bonnafon
(Photo by Bobby Ellis/Getty Images) Reggie Bonnafon /

Could running back Reggie Bonnafon build on a promising first year with the Carolina Panthers?

We are now just 39 days away from the Carolina Panthers taking the field for their Week 1 encounter against the Las Vegas Raiders. Everything seems to be moving as planned despite concerns regarding the current climate. And NFL owners will not want that TV money to dry up if things don’t get underway on schedule.

Safety must come first for every player. But it would be a shock if the opt-out list didn’t grow significantly before Thursday’s deadline. The Carolina Panthers have just two players sitting out the campaign on health grounds so far. And any further roster losses have the potential to be catastrophic for new head coach Matt Rhule’s chances of making an impact during his first year.

Their defense remains an obvious concern for the Panthers. But the organization does have the comfort of knowing that Carolina’s offensive playmakers could keep them in close games as the season progresses.

Continuing our countdown feature ahead of the new season, we now turn our attention to Carolina’s No. 39. Reggie Bonnafon comes into 2020 on the back of a hugely impressive first year in an NFL environment. And there is real cause for encouragement regarding the player’s ability to contribute further next time around.

Reggie Bonnafon could see more action for the Carolina Panthers in 2020

Bonnafon is the clear favorite to secure the No. 2 running back spot behind All-Pro Christian McCaffrey. The former Louisville star made the most out of almost every carry he was allocated in 2019. But he will need to do the same during the upcoming stay to convince a new coaching staff that he belongs with the organization long-term.

An eye-catching time on the field in last season saw Bonnafon secure 116 rushing yards and one touchdown from just 16 carries. This also included a lofty yards-per-carry average of 7.3, two first downs, six receptions from nine targets, and 57 receiving yards.

More from Cat Crave

Although this earned Bonnafon a modest 55.4 grade from Pro Football Focus. His production was a pleasant surprise for a player who had little luck of making his way in the league prior to arriving in Carolina.

What comes next for Bonnafon will be equally as important. Everyone on the Panthers is working with a clean slate after an overhaul of their coaching staff this offseason. And this might leave an opening for Mike Davis and Jordan Scarlett to leap above the current No. 2 option on the depth chart.

There is also the option of Trenton Cannon to consider. The back was picked up off waivers following his release by the New York Jets. And he is something of a wildcard that might pose a serious threat to Bonnafon’s aspirations.

Whoever wins the primary backup job might be in line for more carries in 2020. McCaffrey shouldered an incredible amount of responsibility last season to accumulate more than 400 combined touches. And if Carolina wants to get the most out of their new face of the franchise for the duration of his four-year, $64 million contract extension, this is a trend that cannot continue.

Panthers’ offensive coordinator Joe Brady will be all-too-aware of this. And Bonnafon showed last time out that he is more than capable of coming in and making sure the offense doesn’t miss a beat.

Bonnafon deserves a tremendous amount of credit for seizing the opportunity when it came his way. He is set to make a base salary of $675,000 in 2020. And a bigger financial commitment might be in the offing next spring if the player improves further.

light. More. Carolina Panthers: 3 potential Pac-12 opt-out replacements for Kawann Short