The Carolina Panthers kicked off the Bryce Young era on Saturday. Hopefully, for their sake, the 2023 season isn't followed with the result they incurred on Saturday when they got whalloped 27-0 at home by the Hard Knocks-featured New York Jets. Young was just 4-6 for 21 yards. The starters barely played before giving way to the backups on the roster.
Speaking of starters, the Panthers released their depth chart before their preseason debut. Here's a look at it.
What’s your thoughts on the Panthers first depth chart of the season? pic.twitter.com/LLco654iiw
— Sheena Quick (@Sheena_Marie3) August 8, 2023
Just because some players are listed as starters on the depth chart for now, that doesn't mean that they will be either by the time the season starts or when the season is underway. Some players underperform. Some players get injured. Some backups overperform and force their way onto the field. It happens every season and with every team. The Carolina Panthers will be no exception. There are two players in particular nominated as starters for now that could see their status change as time goes by.
Adam Thielen is listed as a starter over Terrace Marshall Jr. Though Marshall hasn't lived up his second round draft status through two seasons, it's hard to make the case that Thielen should be a starter over Marshall based on last year's play. Thielen's play took a big dip last season. In 17 games, he registered 107 targets, 70 receptions, 716 yards and six touchdowns. That 716-yard mark is the lowest Thielen has registered in a season he played more than ten games since 2015 before he was given the chance to become a full-time player. He accumulated 716 yards despite running 621 routes, the second most in the NFL. Thielen's 1.189 yards per route run he posted last season was one of the worst in the NFL among wide receivers. He's likely dust at this point in his career.
Adam Thielen posted 716 receiving yards last season. Meanwhile, Terrace Marshall Jr. has racked up 628 yards over his two-year NFL career. How can he take Thielen's place? Well, Marshall Jr.'s advanced numbers put him in a better light than Thielen. Marshall Jr.'s 1.84 yards per route run was much better than Thielen's 1.189. Marshall Jr. also posted 10.43 yards per target. It's a smaller sample than Thielen's from a year ago, but Thielen's yards per target mark was 6.69. It's also worth remembering that Thielen was playing off of Justin Jefferson and TJ Hockenson on one of the most pass-happy offenses in the NFL. Yes, Marshall Jr. got to play alongside DJ Moore, but he isn't Justin Jefferson. And Baker Mayfield, Sam Darnold, and PJ Walker are far away from even Kirk Cousins.
— Carolina Panthers (@Panthers) December 11, 2022
The Carolina Panthers are shifting to a new era. Those sorts of teams all need a wily veteran to help steer them in the right direction and show them how to be a professional. That's what they brought Adam Thielen in for. But Thielen the player is not the same as he was a couple of years ago. It wasn't that longer that Marshall was a second-round pick. The Panthers should prioritize giving him more reps and see if he can live up to the rep he had back in LSU. If that happens, Thielen's reps are likely the one to fall by the wayside.
Eddy Piñeiro should have nothing to worry about. Piñeiro emerged as the Panthers' number one kicker last season and was great for them. He was 30 for 32 (93.75 percent) on his field goals and 33/35 (94.2 percent) on his extra points last season for the Panthers. Head coach Frank Reich has stated that he is the Panthers' starting kicker moving forward.
Reich says Eddy Pineiro has established himself as the team's kicker – they just have to stay ahead of his injury.
— Sheena Quick (@Sheena_Marie3) August 10, 2023
But, as the tweet indicates, he is injured after straining his groin in camp. It's likely Piñeiro will be back by the time the season begins. But groin injuries are tricky, especially for a kicker who relies on that area of the body to generate power in their kicks.
The Panthers signed Matthew Wright to kick in Piñeiro's stead while he recovers. That gives Wright an opportunity to stake his claim to be the Panthers' kicker. He's been solid over the few opportunities he's gotten in the NFL. Across three seasons with the Steelers, Jaguars, and Chiefs, Wright hit 35 of his 37 extra point attempts (94.59 percent) and 40 of his 46 field goal attempts (86.96 percent). Wright is no slouch. If Piñeiro doesn't recover soon, Wright could make this kicker battle interesting.
Adam Thielen and Eddy Piñeiro are starters on the Panthers' depth chart. For different reasons, though, their status could become up in the air soon. Those two players and their situations bear monitoring as training camp progresses.