Underachieving veteran must respond positively at Carolina Panthers camp

The stakes are high for everyone associated with the Carolina Panthers.
Dave Canales
Dave Canales / Jim Dedmon-USA TODAY Sports

Not many on the Carolina Panthers emerged with any legitimate credit last season. It was a campaign that promised much and delivered very little. Draft picks failed to meet expectations with mitigating circumstances attached. Established veterans acquired in free agency fluffed their lines for the most part.

Dan Morgan wasted no time in wielding the axe after being promoted to general manager. Anyone deemed not worthy of the team's financial commitment or not pulling their weight was shown the door. There was necessary ruthlessness in his decision-making process. Something the new front-office leader believes can get the Panthers out of obscurity and back among the postseason challengers.

Morgan's willingness to take short-term financial hits for longer-term prosperity placed Miles Sanders' future firmly under the microscope. The veteran running back signed for decent money last offseason. He came to Carolina with ambitions of taking over the mantle left by All-Pro Christian McCaffrey following his trade to the San Francisco 49ers. It didn't go well at all.

Injuries didn't help Sanders' cause during his early transition. The former second-round selection lacked explosiveness and sufficient on-field vision to generate significant yardage. Chuba Hubbard took over the No. 1 spot and didn't let go once the veteran went to injured reserve.

Miles Sanders must prove worthy of involvement under new Carolina Panthers head coach Dave Canales

Sanders was a bit-part player over the second half of 2023. Many thought his outstanding production with the Philadelphia Eagles was more down to their formidable offensive line than anything else. His predicament remains precarious, but the Panthers seem willing to give him one more chance to prove himself before deciding on further action.

It was an underwhelming first season with the Panthers, so Sanders must make more noise than ever at Carolina's upcoming training camp in Charlotte. Competition for places has increased in the running back room thanks to the arrivals of Jonathon Brooks and Rashaad Penny. If the three-year Penn State star cannot redeem himself this summer, the consequences will be severe.

Things look bleak for Sanders, but all hope is not lost.

The Panthers are planning to adopt a run-heavy scheme under head coach Dave Canales. This is designed to take the heat off Bryce Young and ensure the blocking concepts play to the strengths of the offensive linemen. Keeping those in the backfield fresh is key, which means carries and targets should be plentiful if he returns to something like his old self at camp.

Sanders is experienced enough to know what's on the line. He remains confident in his abilities and is eager to fight back from severe adversity. That's the sort of attitude Canales is looking for across the roster during Carolina's route back to potential prosperity.

The margin for error has gone from slim to non-existent where Sanders is concerned. Running backs tend to fall off the proverbial performance cliff quicker than most. While it's way too early to proclaim that regarding the 27-year-old, Morgan and his staff will be watching developments closely.

It would be surprising to see Sanders not make the team based on his previous production and the potential to bounce back with Canales leading the charge. But if the Panthers aren't 100 percent convinced, they might go with Penny or Raheem Blackshear in his spot.

If nothing else, this lays down the gauntlet to Sanders. He must respond positively to restore confidence in his chances of becoming an asset.

Nothing else will do.