In two weeks the Carolina Panthers will square off against the Las Vegas Raiders in what has to be the strangest opening weekend in NFL history. With no preseason to speak off, teams will be blindly going into the regular season with less intel on their opposition. This could be a good thing for the Carolina Panthers, as the NFL has never seen the system that Matt Rhule and company have put together. Unlike established teams under tenured coaches, the Panthers are a mystery.
Not a total mystery, mind you. Here is what we do know.
Fast and Furious
All indications point to the Carolina Panthers using sped to their advantage in 2020. Let’s face it, the pace of the old regime could not honestly be associated with speed. From lunking lumbering passing plays to delay of game penalties in the first quarter, the Carolina Panthers of old were in no hurry.
Panthers training camp has shown a new sense of efficiency and urgency, especially on the offensive side of the ball. A more streamlined play call and a starting quarterback that throws the ball before his offensive line has a chance to wear down.
Throw in the fact that Robby Anderson, DJ Moore, and Curtis Samuel make up one of the fastest receiving units the Carolina Panthers have ever seen and hope begins to fill your soul. Perhaps this year defenses will actually get fatigued when playing the Panthers. Just imagine.
A Defense Under Construction
I am far less optimistic about the Carolina Panthers defense. This is the youngest defense the NFL has seen in a decade. With youth comes energy, but also mistakes. Lots and lots of mistakes.
The Panthers are still looking to supplement their corner position via possible trade but appear to be having little luck. The starting tandem of Jackson and Apple have been less than stellar. This may give rookie Troy Pride, who has impressed as of late, a quicker rise to playing time and possibly starting by seasons end.
There are, however, two things I am extremely excited about when talking Panthers defense. A young and extremely talented defensive line and a possible star in the making named Jeremy Chinn. The development of these stories as the season progresses is more than enough to keep my attention when the Panthers defense takes the field.
A Holistic Coach
I’m not sure if anyone has ever used the term holistic when referring to a football coach. I think it applies to Matt Rhule just fine.
Rhule strikes me as a big picture guy that realized ever facet of a football team is interconnected to one another. While Ron Rivera would look for a band aid as a quick fix a football related issue, Rhule seems more likely to find the root cause and then adjust entire systems and processes to address it. Perhaps then, over time, less band aids will be needed.
One thing we do know is that Matt Rhule has quickly won over his new team and gained respect from his players. Rhule is the type of young coach needed in this time that melds NFL football with social responsibility. Rhule allowing his players to have agency in helping to create social change is something we have not seen before in Carolina.