The Carolina Panthers went just 5-11 this season, as instability at the quarterback position due to an injury to Cam Newton and inconsistent play from Kyle Allen resulted in the Panthers going on a downward spiral.
Carolina’s struggles also ended in the firing of long-time head coach Ron Rivera.
But there were numerous bright spots for the Panthers this season.
Here are the three players who improved the most for Carolina in 2019:
3. James Bradberry
The Panthers had been waiting a while for James Bradberry to finally develop into a potentially elite cornerback, and in 2019, he took a major step in that direction.
Bradberry played in 15 games this season, registering 65 tackles, a sack, three interceptions and 12 passes defended.
From a numbers perspective, Bradberry didn’t look all that different from his first three seasons, but his impact in the secondary was certainly felt more, and now, the free-agent-to-be is staring a big offseason payday in the face as a result.
It’s a shame that the Panthers may end up losing Bradberry as a result of his breakout performance, as Carolina doesn’t have a ton of cap room, but he will certainly draw some attention on the open market.
Hopefully, for whoever signs him, it’s not just a case of Bradberry playing well in a contract year.
2. Christian McCaffrey
The reason why Christian McCaffrey is not No. 1 on this list is that we already knew he was really good going into this season, but my goodness; McCaffrey was a monster in 2019.
The third-year running back rushed for 1,387 yards and 15 touchdowns while averaging 4.8 yards per carry this season while also hauling in 116 receptions for 1,005 yards and four scores.
Talk about an all-purpose back.
McCaffrey’s spectacular campaign resulted in his first Pro Bowl selection, as well as First-Team All-Pro honors.
It’s hard to imagine the 23-year-old topping this season in 2020, but he had already set a fairly high bar for himself after a terrific 2018 showing, so who knows.
1. D.J. Moore
One can’t help but remember the training camp video where legendary retired Panthers wide receiver Steve Smith was asking Newton whether or not he should start D.J. Moore in his fantasy football league right in front of Moore.
Smith went as far as to say that Moore “is not a real wide receiver yet because he’s just kind of developing.” Finally, he asked the second-year wideout if he should start him, to which Moore shyly replied, “start me.”
Well, if Smith heeded Moore’s advice, he did pretty well this season.
Moore caught 87 passes for 1,175 yards and four touchdowns, stamping his name among the top young wideouts in football.
That came after a solid rookie campaign in which Moore snared 55 balls for 788 yards and a couple of scores.
Also, keep in mind that Moore put these numbers up in 2019 with Allen struggling at quarterback for much of the year, so imagine what he can do with a more stable presence under center?
Moore may be ready to ascend into the upper echelon of wide receivers heading into 2020.