The 2019 season for the Carolina Panthers was unquestionably filled with turmoil and disappointment. At the beginning of the season, Carolina had Cam Newton under center, and Ron Rivera was heading into his ninth season as the head coach.
In a sudden turn of events, the Panthers ended the season with Will Grier as the starting quarterback, and Rivera no longer held the position of being the head coach. The Panthers fired Rivera following a devastating defeat to the Washington Redskins in Week 13.
That is pretty ironic considering that Rivera recently was hired by the Redskins to become their new head coach. As for the Panthers, they are still searching for their coach of the future.
Carolina ended the season on an eight-game losing streak and finished with a 5-11 record. In light of that, here are the five biggest takeaways from the 2019 NFL season for the Panthers.
5. Brian Burns Could Become a Special Player
In the 2019 NFL Draft, the Panthers selected Brian Burns out of Florida State with the 16th overall pick. The talented edge-rusher immediately made his presence felt as he totaled 4.5 sacks, three tackles for loss, a forced fumble, and a touchdown in Carolina’s first six games.
Altogether, the rookie pass-rusher would tally 7.5 sacks, five tackles for loss, 16 quarterback hits, a forced fumble, and a touchdown in 2019. There’s no doubt that Burns was able to get acclimated to the speed of the NFL pretty quickly.
Even amidst a downtrodden year, Burns proved that he could become a special player for the Panthers. Carolina would love to have Burns have the same career path as Julius Peppers did with the franchise.
4. The Panthers Need Some Help at Receiver
Over the past few years, the Panthers have attempted to bolster their skill positions on offense. At wide receiver, Carolina tends to heavily lean on D.J. Moore and Curtis Samuel for the majority of their production.
During the 2019 season, Moore and Samuel combined for 141 receptions, 1,802 receiving yards, and 10 receiving touchdowns. As for the rest of the wide receivers on the roster, they combined for only 48 receptions, 520 yards, and zero touchdowns.
The Panthers need to address the wide receiver position in the upcoming offseason. Luckily for them, the 2020 NFL Draft is littered with talented pass-catchers.
3. The defense unequivocally missed Kawann Short
Ever since Kawann Short became a full-time starter for the Panthers in 2015, their run defense became one of the best groups in the NFL. That all changed in 2019 due to Short suffering a season-ending injury in Week 2.
From 2015-2018, Short led the Panthers to a top-12 ranked run defense in the NFL each season. As for the 2019 season, Carolina faltered against the run as they ended the year with the 29th ranked run defense.
It’s not a coincidence that Short happened to be injured when the Panthers struggled to contain the run. At the least, Short will return to the defense next season, and hopefully, he’s back to being healthy.
2. Christian McCaffrey is the Best Dual-Threat RB in the NFL
Despite the Panthers sputtering down the stretch, Christian McCaffrey was a bright spot in Charlotte. The third-year running back ended the season with 1,387 rushing yards and 15 rushing touchdowns on the ground.
To go along with his tantalizing rushing numbers, McCaffrey also hauled in 116 receptions for 1,005 yards and another four touchdowns. The Stanford product joined Marshall Faulk and Roger Craig as the only running backs in NFL history to record 1,000 rushing and receiving yards in the same season.
Besides Michael Thomas — a wide receiver — McCaffery became the second player in NFL history to tally 300 receptions in his first three seasons. In a league that is permeated with dual-threat running backs, McCaffrey proved he is the best in the NFL.
1. Carolina Doesn’t Have Their Franchise QB on the Roster
Early in the season, Newton sustained a foot injury that would cause him to miss the rest of the season. Due to another injury, Newton’s future with the Panthers has been put into serious doubt.
Following his injury, Kyle Allen assumed the role as the starter as a second-year undrafted quarterback. The undrafted quarterback out of Houston finished the season with 3,322 yards, 17 touchdowns, and 16 interceptions in 12 starts.
As a result of his struggles, the team attempted to start Grier, a rookie out of West Virginia. The decision wouldn’t pay dividends as Grier managed to throw for 228 yards, zero touchdowns, and four interceptions in his two starts.
Provided those numbers, the Panthers likely don’t have their franchise quarterback on the roster right now. Therefore, expect Carolina to consider all of their options during the offseason.