One of the best things about sports is that every year provides a fresh beginning. It doesn’t matter if you won the championship or lost every game last year; once the new campaign kicks off, everyone is one equal footing again. For the Carolina Panthers, however, 2020 will carry some extra challenges.
While trying to play football during a pandemic will be a bit different for everyone, things will be even harder for the Carolina Panthers. Making organizational changes is never easy; trying to retool your entire team without any preseason games, however, seems almost impossible.
The Carolina Panthers made some major changes in 2020
When a professional sports team struggles, some heads are usually going to roll. That’s exactly what happened with the Carolina Panthers.
During the 2018 campaign, the Panthers started out 6-2 but collapsed down the stretch, finishing the year 7-9. While that didn’t cost head coach Ron Rivera his job, it did leave him on thin ice; when the club experienced a similar dip in for in 2019, Riverboat Ron was sent packing.
While Perry Fewell finished out the year as the club’s interim head coach, Baylor’s Matt Rhule landed the job in January 2020. That wasn’t the full extent of the changes, though.
Beyond the coaching staff, the Panthers also lost some marquee players during the offseason. Linebacker Luke Kuechly suddenly retired, although he stayed with the organization as a pro scout; veteran tight end Greg Olsen now plies his trade in Seattle. Carolina also released Cam Newton after signing Teddy Bridgewater as their new starting quarterback.
The NFL preseason will be a bit different this year
Due to the coronavirus pandemic, everyone has had to make changes to their lives and routines. In the NFL, things are no different.
In the spring, the 2020 NFL draft took place virtually, with Roger Goodell and every team working from their own separate locations. That trend continued with offseason workouts; rather than showing up to the team’s facility or linking up with the rest of the squad, players followed their programs from home.
Some additional changes will also be taking place as we inch toward the potential start of the season. As reported by ProFootballTalk, training camp rosters will be capped at 80 players, as opposed to the usual 90. The NFL and the NFL PA also seem poised to agree on completely eliminating the 2020 preseason.
A lack of preseason could be challenging for the new-look Carolina Panthers
While no NFL fans will shed a tear over losing the 2020 preseason, the Carolina Panthers might feel a bit differently. Given the scale of their changes, those meaningless games could have provided a valuable opportunity to work through some growing pains.
As Field Yates observed on Twitter, the Panthers are the only team in the league with a new head coach, new coordinators, and a new starting quarterback. To make matters even tougher, Matt Rhule is making the jump from college to the pros; running an NFL team is quite a bit different than spending one season as the New York Giants assistant offensive line coach.
Carolina is also dealing with some significant roster turnover. Beyond the losses of Cam Newton and Luke Kuechly, Yates noted that the club will only “return a league-low 46.9% of total snaps” from 2019. While starters don’t get too many reps during the preseason, those games would at least give a chance for everyone to get on the same page. All the practice in the world can’t replace a game situation, even in an irrelevant scrimmage.
Although the 2020 NFL season will be challenging for everyone, things will be a bit tougher for the Carolina Panthers. If nothing else, though, they’ll still have Christian McCaffrey on the roster; when in doubt, just hand him the ball and hope for the best.