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What are the key expectations for Carolina Panthers for season?
What are the key expectations for Carolina Panthers for season?
May 22, 2024 11:04 PM

The Carolina Panthers entered the 2023 season with their fortunes seemingly on the upswing. They managed a 7-10 record despite giving head coach Matt Rhule the ax after a 1-4 start, subsequently going 6-6 down the stretch even with a carousel of quarterbacks taking snaps for the team.

The Panthers decided to roll the dice ahead of the draft, flipping a pair of first round picks and a few other pieces to the Chicago Bears in return for the first overall pick, acquiring Heisman trophy winning quarterback Bryce Young in doing so.

With the talented signal caller joining a roster that was already solid, things seemed to be looking up for the Panthers: some NFL pundits were even saying that the team had a chance to make the playoffs for the first time since 2017, making them a popular pick with NC sports betting apps.

Instead, the Panthers promptly fell off a cliff, struggling to a 1-9 record that is the worst in the league to this point in the season. As the focus invariably turns to next season, here’s what one would hope to see out of the Panthers down the stretch.

Bryce Young, Boom or Bust?

The highly touted quarterback hasn’t lived up to expectations through the first few games of his career. It can take time for a player to develop, especially at the hardest position in the sport, but Young simply hasn’t been good enough to this point.

The Panthers aren’t going to punt on him yet, most likely, especially given the sorry state of the rooster and the questionable coaching that he’s receiving, but they’d certainly like to see positive development from him as the season goes on.

To this point, Young has thrown for 1,683 yards, nine touchdowns and eight interceptions on 319 passing attempts. These numbers help combine for a quarterback rating of 29.9, the No. 31 mark in a league with 32 starting quarterbacks: not the type of stat line you’d expect from a first overall pick and presumptive face of a franchise.

Rebuild or Retool?

The Panthers look like they’re going to need a rebuild — one doesn’t overhaul a roster that only manages to win a game or two overnight. If Young shows that he can be the guy over the course of the rest of the season, though, the Panthers could check off the box at the game’s most important position.

In many ways, the worst place in the league for a team to be is quarterback purgatory. Having a top tier signal caller can disguise a lot of a team’s flaws, while having a putrid roster means that you’ll have a chance to swing for the fences with a high draft pick the following year.

Between those extremes, though, are the quarterbacks who are just good enough to give a team hope without having quite the talent needed to win when it counts. Finding out where Young fits in will go a long way toward determining the Panthers’ fortunes moving forward. If they have their quarterback of the future, a rebuild will go a lot more smoothly than if they had to try again with a different prospect.

What to Do With Brian Burns

The 25 year old linebacker set a career high with 12.5 sacks last season, cementing his position as one of the best edge rushers in the entire league. He’s a step behind players like TJ Watt and Myles Garrett in terms of production, but with his rookie contract running out at the end of this season, Burns is going to want a new deal.

If he’s demanding more than the Panthers are willing to give him, they’re going to have to decide how to best proceed. Letting him walk for nothing could net them a compensatory pick in Round 3 or later of next year’s draft, which is a nice consolation prize… but likely won’t be enough to replace his production.

The Panthers turned down a trade with the Los Angeles Rams, who offered two first round picks for him at last year’s trade deadline, but they probably can’t command that type of haul now given that he has disappointed this season, racking up just five sacks in nine games.

It may be too late for the Panthers to salvage the situation, especially if Burns wants to leave town. The fact that general manager Scott Fitterer could low-ball him after a disappointing season could make matters even worse. Finding some way to proceed without making a further mess of things will help expedite the Panthers’ rebuilding process, whether because they have a premier edge rusher on their team, or because they get suitable trade compensation for him.

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