No more pushover?
That’s the message the Carolina Panthers, a team that hasn’t won more than five games in each of its last three seasons, is hoping to convey to the rest of the league.
The New York Giants’ Week 2 opponent (and 2022 home opener) has the weight of the world on its shoulders as it looks to revitalize its football on the arm of newly acquired quarterback Baker Mayfield.
Can third-year head coach Matt Rhule, who despite his team’s 10-23 record under his watch doesn’t appear to be on the hot seat yet, finally get the Panthers in gear? Let’s take a closer look at where they stand.
Week 2: Carolina Panthers at New York Giants
Sunday, Sept. 18, 1 p.m., FOX
Panthers’ 2021 Record
5-12 (.294), fourth in NFC South
The Panthers hold a 6-5 advantage in the regular-season meetings and a 1-0 advantage in the postseason. Carolina has won three of its last four games against the Giants, their winning streak snapped in the most recent meeting with the Giants in 2021. This will be the second consecutive season these two teams will meet in the regular season.
October 24, 2021: The Giants snapped a three-game losing streak to the Panthers with a dominating 25-3 victory. New York’s defense limited Carolina to 173 yards and 11 first downs, holding them to just a first-quarter 45-yard field goal by kicker Zane Gonzalez.
Former Panthers kicker Graham Gano kicked three field goals, quarterback Daniel Jones connected with receiver Dante Pettis on a 5-yard touchdown pass, and running back Devontae Booker checked in with a 19-yard touchdown run to ice the Giants’ victory.
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Panthers Key Additions
Baker Mayfield, QB (trade), RB D’Onta Foreman, RB (FA); Rashard Higgins, WR (FA); Ikem Ekwonu, OT (draft); Bradley Bozeman, C (FA); Austin Corbett, G (FA); Matt Ioannidis, DT (FA); Damien Wilson, LB (FA); Corey Littleton, LB (FA); Xavier Woods, S (FA); Matt Corral, QB (draft)
Panthers Key Losses
DaQuan Jones, DT (FA); Haason Reddick, LB (FA); Jermaine Carter Jr., LB (FA); Stephon Gilmore, CB (FA).
Offseason Grade: B+
The Panthers aren’t necessarily ready to compete for a playoff spot but they did improve the roster significantly this offseason. Losing both Reddick and Gilmore in free agency hurts, but they were able to completely revamp the offensive line by drafting Ikem Ekwonu sixth and by signing Bozeman and Corbett in free agency.
Carolina has the depth at corner to withstand the loss of Gilmore with Jaycee Horn, Donte Jackson, CJ Henderson, Keith Taylor Jr. and others. However, they failed to find a replacement for Reddick, which could mean Brian Burns’ path to the quarterback won’t be as easy this fall. — Schuyler Callihan, All Panthers Publisher
The biggest question that needed to be answered–the identity of the starting quarterback in Week 1–appears to have been resolved. After being very close to making a draft-night trade for Baker Mayfield, the Panthers finally got the deal done with the Browns to acquire Mayfield in a deal in which Cleveland will pay $10.5 million of Mayfield’s salary and the Panthers $5 million (with Mayfield giving back $3.5 million but having a chance to earn that through incentives).
If Mayfield doesn’t work out, the Panthers also have Matt Corral, whom they traded back into the third round to select as an option. Corral comes from an RPO-centric offense but has a lot to learn and probably isn’t ready to push for the starting job. With Mayfield on board, he won’t have to right away. — Schuyler Callihan, All Panthers Publisher
Running back Christian McCaffrey ranks third in fantasy points per game average (21.8) at his position in the last two years. Unfortunately, he’s also played just 10 games during that time due to injuries. CMC’s high level of statistical success will keep him in the first round, even in the top five overall, but there might not be a bigger risk-reward pick. — Michael Fabiano