The Carolina Panthers defense was ranked dead last by Pro Football Focus ahead of their season opener against the Las Vegas Raiders.
It is no secret that the Carolina Panthers have plenty of questions to answer regarding their defense next season. This is to be expected with an overhaul of this magnitude and the lack of preseason games has only heightened their concerns for a successful 2020 campaign.
Deciding not to bring back so many key veterans was always going to come with its own set of complications. The Carolina Panthers made a concerted effort to go younger and more athletic in a bid to turnaround their fortunes. But having little experience in an NFL environment is going to come with its fair share of growing pains.
The Carolina Panthers defense gets no love from Pro Football Focus.
There is a chance that this unit can defy the odds by coming together in a short space of time. The Panthers could have a prolific offense to keep them competitive in 2020. However, as the old saying goes, “defense wins championships”. And although Carolina might be nowhere near this sort of level as yet, they will still need to produce the goods more often than not against some elite passing attacks on the schedule.
The offseason of unprecedented change has received a damning verdict from Pro Football Focus. Carolina’s defense was ranked the NFL’s worst in their power rankings ahead of the new campaign, which is a further testament to the task awaiting them in the coming months.
PFF writer Anthony Treash highlighted the promise surrounding the Panthers’ defensive line. But the loss of perennial All-Pro linebacker Luke Kuechly coupled with severe concerns at cornerback and reliance on rookie players were the primary concerns that are clearly there for all to see.
"As promising as its defensive line might be with young players such as Derrick Brown, Brian Burns and Yetur Gross-Matos, this Carolina defense is very much still a work in progress. The unit does bring back one of the league’s best pure deep safeties in Tre Boston, who has been the sixth-most valuable safety since 2017 (played for three different teams), but that’s one of the few positives.Donte Jackson returns to man one of the outside corner starting spots, but he has been wildly inconsistent thus far in his NFL career. Among 51 qualifying outside cornerbacks since 2018, Jackson ranks 38th in coverage grade. Eli Apple, who comes in to occupy the other outside spot, has ranked just 44th among the same group. If the Panthers want to dig themselves out of this last place spot, they’ll need big, unexpected rookie years in the secondary from players such as Troy Pride Jr. and Jeremy Chinn."
It is going to be a season full of ups and downs for the Panthers, of that there is little doubt. The team’s loyal fanbase will need to keep the bigger picture in mind when looking at their fortunes in 2020. But their lack of expectations should not detract from the need to show growth to make them an attractive option for players during another critical offseason period in 2021.
Carolina’s defense has their backs against the wall from the moment they step onto the field. Things might get worse before they get better but sleep on their athleticism at your peril.