How will the rookie starters hold up?
The Carolina Panthers have placed a significant amount of faith in their youth movement this offseason. This could see no fewer than four rookie players starting on the defensive side of the ball.
They haven’t had any preseason games to adjust to life at the next level, so it is going to be a crash course for any first-year player that sees the field. How they cope is going to be crucial if the Panthers want to start the 2020 campaign off on the right foot.
This will be especially evident on the defensive line. Big things are expected of No. 7 overall pick Derrick Brown alongside Kawann Short on the interior and he will have a bullseye on his back after being such a high-end selection.
Yetur Gross-Matos appears to have won the second defensive end starting spot ahead of Stephen Weatherly, although both will probably be involved plenty as the season goes on. The former Penn State standout has all the athletic tools needed to become a prominent NFL pass-rusher if he makes the most out of his supreme physical attributes from the word go.
The absence of Eli Apple has piled more pressure on fourth-round pick Troy Pride Jr., who is the favorite to start opposite No. 1 cornerback Donte Jackson. This is a big step up in class for the speed merchant and rookies at the position do tend to struggle against more imposing wide receivers in the NFL initially.
Jeremy Chinn is going to be used in multiple areas as a rookie and possibly beyond. He is slotted as the joint-starter with Jermaine Carter at outside linebacker. But it wouldn’t be a shock to see him in a three-safety scheme when a particular scenario calls for such a move.
How these four get on is going to be a big storyline to watch and has the potential to be a key factor for the Panthers.