For most of the offseason, the media has centered their attention on the Panthers' quarterback situation...and rightfully so. However, much of the expectations regarding the Panthers this season relies on the ability of these five players to step up and replace those lost in free agency (ie. Stephon Gilmore & Haason Reddick). While these aren't all that should be expected to play better, I hope to cover at least a few in my writing below:
While garnering quite the hype from preseason, the former LSU receiver failed to produce in the regular season, only totaling 17 catches on 30 targets (58.6% catch rate) for 138 yards in 13 games. Marshall needs to shows some more promise in year two if he expects to live up to his 2nd round billing, or else Fitterer whiffed: and that's simply not likely. I think that Terrace will take a big leap under new wide receivers coach Joe Dailey and a more experienced coordinator in Ben McAdoo.
Lots of the media surrounding the tight ends room this offseason was due to a lack of activity or transactions. Carolina received one of, if not the lowest, receiving totals from the tight end room in the league. In McAdoos offense, that should be set to change. The former Giants head coach got to work with a talented player in Evan Engram, who put up his best seasons under McAdoo, albeit when he was healthy. And while Tremble garners most of his attention for blocking abilities, many see untapped potential in the receiving department. If this is anyone's year, it should be a year 2 Tommy Tremble.
Losing a professional like Stephon Gilmore following a season in which he broke his foot has got to hurt, regardless of how much knowledge he gained off the field. We can't forget, though, that when he was healthy the first two games, he was on lockdown, heading towards a DROY candidacy.
During the first two weeks, no rookie defensive back had a lower opposing passer rating than when targeting the former South Carolina Gamecock, albeit a small sample size. His 2021 season stats are as follows: 4 tackles, 1 interception, 5 targets, 1 reception allowed (PFF). I feel that that speaks for itself. Jaycee is ready for another signature seatbelt celebration.
It seems that this coaching staff has a lot of trust in Yetur to step up and replace Haason Reddick's production alongside Brian Burns, or a committee approach. At this moment, I feel that it's YGM's job to lose. Nearing the end the season, Phil Snow expressed lots of confidence in Yetur's improved ability to rush the passer when healthy, saying "he's just a big, young, physical guy that runs around, plays hard, and likes to play." If the third year defensive end can show some more consistency, I think this could be Yetur's breakout campaign.
I think I can speak for most of us in that we don't see our linebackers as being the most talented position group. There's the reliable homegrown talent in Shaq Thompson, who broke out last season in #7, the failed big-money signing from Las Vegas in Cory Littleton, and a backup in Damien Wilson. Needless to say, I don't expect much of them this year but they could surprise. Before leaving for Vegas, Littleton was one of LA's most prized defenders as a run-and-chase linebacker. Wilson contributed for multiple years with Kansas City, and Shaq is consistently above average. Taking that next step as a defense that started out strong but began to taper off near the end depends on these three to step up and finish better for their team.
These are certainly not all the names that could find themselves in a increasingly expectant role heading into the 2022 season but all of them have plenty of reason to believe they are important to the success of the team. What other players do you think should be on this list? Leave your comments below.