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State of the Carolina Panthers: Signs of progress needed from Bryce Young in Year 2

Where does your squad stand ahead of the 2024 NFL season? Adam Rank sets the table by providing a State of the Franchise look at all 32 teams, zeroing in on the new faces to know, one significant fantasy spin and the stakes at play in the campaign to come.

Members of the Panthers organization, Panthers fans around the world and those who are now asking themselves, why didn't we trade Brian Burns to the Bears instead of DJ Moore?

It was a tough season, Panthers fan. I'm not going to lie to you. The price you paid for a franchise quarterback was steep, and there wasn't much of a return in Year 1 with Bryce Young. The worst part? The 2024 first-round pick you traded to the Bears ended up being quarterback Caleb Williams. But you can't waste time worrying about the moves you made. Instead, look forward to the future. Can the Panthers rebound? Let's take a look.

2024 brain trust

Table inside Article
Head coach Dave Canales
General manager Dan Morgan
Offensive coordinator Brad Idzik
Defensive coordinator Ejiro Evero
Special teams coordinator Tracy Smith

Roster reshuffling

Below is a rundown of the Panthers' most notable roster developments for the 2024 season, including this year's draft class, as well as key acquisitions and departures via free agency and trade.

Table inside Article
Draft class (round-pick) Key additions Key departures
Xavier Legette, WR, South Carolina (1-32) Rashaad Penny, RB DJ Chark, WR
Jonathon Brooks, RB, Texas (2-46) Diontae Johnson, WR Laviska Shenault Jr., WR
Trevin Wallace, LB, Kentucky (3-72) Yosh Nijman, OT Hayden Hurst, TE
Ja'Tavion Sanders, TE, Texas (4-101) Robert Hunt, OG Gabe Jackson, OG
Chau Smith-Wade, CB, Washington State (5-157) Damien Lewis, OG Bradley Bozeman, C
Jaden Crumedy, DT, Mississippi State (6-200) K'Lavon Chaisson, OLB DeShawn Williams, DL
Michael Barrett, LB, Michigan (7-240) Jadeveon Clowney, OLB Brian Burns, OLB
D.J. Wonnum, OLB Yetur Gross-Matos, OLB
A'Shawn Robinson, DT Kamu Grugier-Hill, LB
Josey Jewell, LB Deion Jones, LB
Dane Jackson, CB Frankie Luvu, LB
Jordan Fuller, S Shaquill Griffin, CB
C.J. Henderson, CB
Donte Jackson, CB
Vonn Bell, S
Jeremy Chinn, S

New faces to know

Dave Canales_
Dave Canales
Head coach

I loved the decision to bring in Canales. The Panthers have scuffled along and their coaching hires since Ron Rivera’s dismissal have not worked out -- Matt Rhule was 11-27 and Frank Reich finished 1-10 before being let go midway through last season. Canales provides a fresh approach. The work he did with Geno Smith in Seattle and Baker Mayfield in Tampa Bay should give those nervous about Bryce Young, who struggled mightily as a rookie, a shot of confidence. And let’s not forget Canales’ best move might have been retaining defensive coordinator Ejiro Evero.

Robert Hunt
OG · Year 5
Damien Lewis
OG · Year 5

Last year, the Panthers offensive line struggled to protect Young, who was sacked 62 times (second most in the NFL behind Sam Howell). The team wasted no time in free agency bringing in some viable protection for the young quarterback. I’m telling you, bringing in Canales and rebuilding the interior with veterans Hunt and Lewis were great moves by GM Dan Morgan. 

Jadeveon Clowney
OLB · Year 11

You’re not going to easily replace Brian Burns, who’s in his prime, with an 11th-year veteran -- especially when you consider Clowney isn’t an every-down player like Burns. There is some credibility gained when adding a player like Clowney, a former No. 1 overall pick who’s had at least nine sacks in two of his last three seasons. The Panthers didn’t pick an edge rusher in the draft, so they must think they are good when it comes to their pass rush. Or, they are only going to worry about the offense this year, which I’m totally cool with.

State of the QB room

Listen, I know you can look at what C.J. Stroud did in Houston and be downright morose about Bryce Young's performance last year. His PFF grade (56) wasn't the best, which might have some Panthers fans clamoring for Jimmy Clausen. But let's have some real talk here. Stroud would not have won the Offensive Rookie of the Year award if he had been playing for the Panthers last year. Hell, I'm not sure Patrick Mahomes could have succeeded with the Panthers offense. I know that's a bit of hyperbole considering Mahomes likely would have been just fine. But when you have to reference the best quarterback in the league to make that example, it goes to show just how dire things were in Carolina. I'll kindly ask this of you: Give Young one season with Dave Canales, an improved offensive line and some upgraded weapons before we completely write him off. Sometimes you need to chill.

Most important non-QB

Diontae Johnson
WR · Year 6
Xavier Legette
WR · Rookie

I'm picking two players for this category. Johnson was traded from Pittsburgh and Legette was taken with the No. 32 overall selection after Carolina moved up one spot in this year's draft. I know Johnson got a lot of (stuff) for not scoring many touchdowns in Pittsburgh over the last two seasons (five total), but he’s a good receiver. While history suggests that receivers who leave the Steelers struggle (SEE: JuJu Smith-Schuster, Chase Claypool, Antonio Brown), Johnson will have a huge role in his new offense. And I love Legette, who will likely pass Jonathan Mingo to be WR3. Look for Legette to make some splash plays on offense and special teams. 

My HOTTEST Panthers fantasy take:

Rookie Jonathon Brooks will be a second-half league winner.

Think of him like this year's version of Lions running back Jahmyr Gibbs. You're going to be tempted to drop him at some point early in the season. But don't do that. Brooks will be brought along slowly following his November ACL injury. But dude was dealing for the Texas Longhorns before he went down, with 1,139 rushing yards and 10 rushing scores in his first 10 games of the season. That's some Christian McCaffrey-like stuff right there.

2024 roadmap

Three key dates:

  • Week 1: at New Orleans Saints. Week 1 is always a great opportunity for teams that a lot of people have already written off. This is a chance for Carolina to make a huge statement.
  • Week 5: at Chicago Bears. Panthers fans are going to hate the Bears for quite some time. I get that. Especially when you see that graphic where it shows how well the Bears did in that trade.
  • Week 17: at Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The Panthers end the season with back-to-back road games against the rival Bucs and Falcons. That's a tough break from the schedule makers.

For 2024 to be a success, the Panthers MUST:

A) Win the Super Bowl
B) Make a playoff run
C) Earn a playoff berth
D) Finish above .500
E) Show progress

My answer: E) Show progress. The only thing you truly want out of this season is to know if Bryce Young can play in Dave Canales' system. It's that simple. Carolina made a lot of moves this offseason to improve the offense. And I love it. You need to see what the quarterback can do. I'm not saying this is a make-or-break-season for Young, but maybe it could be? Young doesn't have to go out and lead the team to the playoffs this season, but he should help them be competitive. Win some games. That would be a success for the Panthers this year.

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