The next time the Carolina Panthers take to the field – which is several months away yet – they’ll look very different from the team we saw in January. That’s a good thing. They need to be different. The Panthers haven’t been competitive at the highest level for some time, but in the 2020 season, the team was already struggling by the halfway point and then got worse from there. Most of the team appeared to have mentally checked out long before the final game of the season was played. By that time, any dream of reaching the post-season had been dead for months.
Big challenges need bold solutions, and bold solutions are what General Manager Scott Fitterer was brought in to provide. He hasn’t been shy during trade season. Eleven trades have been picked up during the draft, which is the most they’ve made since they joined the NFL in 1995. This is the biggest shake-up the team has ever been through, and the changes don’t stop with those eleven drafts. There are also undrafted free agents coming in, with more perhaps joining them before the first ball of the season is kicked.
Making wholesale changes of the kind we’re seeing at the Panthers is always a risk. It takes time for new teammates to gel. The more new teammates you have, the longer that gelling process is likely to take. It’s a little like playing the “Gridiron Glory” online slots game. All the symbols necessary to make a winning line are already there when you load the online slots game for the first time, but getting them in the right order takes time and money. Most players at Rose Slots NZ are a little more patient than the average football fan is, though. They’re prepared to sit through losses because they’re confident wins will eventually arrive. That’s a certainly that online slots players have, but football fans don’t.
Is there reason to be optimistic about the new group of players at the Panthers for 2021, though? Let’s run the rule over the highest-profile new acquisitions and see what they’re made of.
Matt Rhule already knows what Chuba Hubbard can do. When Rhule was in charge of Baylor, Hubbard ran riot against him with two touchdowns and 171 yards. Even if Rhule didn’t notice that his wife did. By Rhule’s own admission, he has a text on his phone from his wife telling him he should take Hubbard during the fourth round. She doesn’t need to worry about that now. Hubbard is a Panthers player. He’s signed a four-year rookie deal and should provide strong competition to Christian McCaffrey for the running back role. He’s known for his speed and could potentially have become an Olympic sprinter, but he chose football instead. Don’t make the mistake of thinking that speed is all this talented young man has to his game, though. He’s also excellent at passing and distribution, with outstanding vision.
Defensive tackle Phil Hoskins was the Panthers’ 11th and final pick of a busy weekend and comes in from Kentucky with a point to prove. He’s long been said to have potential but has yet to capitalise on it. He played 31 games for Kentucky and had moments of brilliance, but a 4.0 for sacks and 7.5 for tackles doesn’t tell the whole story. He’s capable of more, and he’ll be eager to prove it. Getting the opportunity to do so might be an issue. Defensive tackle is a position where the Panthers already have depth, and he’ll have to excel if he’s going to break through and see the field regularly. Standing six feet and five inches tall and weighing in at 315 pounds, Hoskins has all the tools to succeed in his position. It’s down to him now.
Thomas Fletcher joins the Panthers from Alabama as a long snapper. The first thing he has to do is escape his father’s shadow. Tom Fletcher was also a snapper in the NFL, and so will be the first player that the younger Fletcher is compared to. If reports are to be believed, though, he shouldn’t have a problem doing so. Many insiders consider him to be the best prospect in his position available in the entire draft. That begs the question of why he only made the tenth pick, but that’s everyone else’s problem, not the Panthers. He capped a fine season in 2020 by winning the Patrick Mannelly Award and also played a key role in bringing the national championship to Tide. The Panthers hope he’ll be just as impactful in the NFL.
Jaycee Horn is a big, aggressive man, and that’s precisely what the Panthers have been missing in recent seasons. The internal view within the team is that Horn is a cornerback they can build a team around. That’s a lot of pressure for the South Carolina native, but pressure seems to be what he thrives on. If Rhule is right about Horn, he’ll become the partner in crime that Donte Jackson has been waiting for. Horn hasn’t been signed to sit on the bench – he’ll be out on the field from game one, and he’ll expect to stay there. Rhule turned down several other options to ensure that Horn ended up in Carolina. Hopefully, the player will be able to repay his faith.
Those are the players who we feel are the most likely to have an impact, but we could be wrong. Shi Smith’s impressive Senior Bowl showing could make the wide receiver one to watch. Deonte Brown has just won a national championship as a starter for Alabama and has ambitions of becoming an all-time great. Keith Taylor was right there at the Senior Bowl, and Mikey Daniel fills a gaping hole on the roster by coming in at full-back. We’ve been let down before by expecting too much from the Panthers after what appeared to be a promising draft, and maybe we’re about to make the same mistake again. Scott Fitterer means business, though, and these new players look like they feel the same way. Let’s see what they can do. The season will be upon us before we know it.
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