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Why the Panthers Have an Advantage in the NFC South

Believe it or not, Carolina is on the rise!

While many Panthers fans are discouraged for the state of the team this year, it is important to consider these key points:

- the NFL Draft built up the defense

- Other teams in the division are aging

- the Panthers have a lot of exciting core pieces

- Matt Rhule and his staff know how to build a successful program

With that said, let me tell you some important details to understand why the Panthers have an advantage (in the long run) over the division rivals:

Point #1: The NFL Draft built up the defense

The Panthers went into the 2020 NFL Draft, looking to bolster their defense. And that's exactly what they did! After the departures of Luke Kuechly, Mario Addison, Bruce Irvin, Eric Reid, James Bradberry, Dontari Poe, and Gerald McCoy, the Panthers spent all 7 of their picks on defensive players. In the first round, they selected Derrick Brown, a superstar defensive tackle from Auburn. The Panthers had the worst run defense last year, and Brown (along with Short) should look to shore up that spot this season. In the 2nd round, they nabbed two players, a talented defensive end in Yetur Gross-Matos, and a hybrid defensive weapon in Jeremy Chinn. Each will be playing a significant role in Phil Snow's defense. Looking to fill that need at corner across from Donte Jackson, the Panthers took a speed demon corner from Notre Dame, in Troy Pride Jr. To finish out the draft, they selected Kenny Robinson (1st player to be drafted from XFL), a defensive tackle from Baylor (Bravvion Roy), and a tall corner in Stantley Thomas-Oliver. Many of these draftees will show growth as they learn to perform in the NFL. Meanwhile, as you look around the division, each team has aging pieces that will need to be replaced soon. The Panthers have already started work on replacements.

Point #2: Other Teams in the NFL are Aging

Tom Brady is 43. Drew Brees is 41. Matt Ryan is 35. These are cornerstones of a franchise. While Tom Brady has just now joined the Bucs, his age has not changed. He probably only has one or two more years at most, which will put the Bucs in position to select a quarterback very soon. It seems like it is Superbowl or bust for the Saints, as Brees is likely to retire after this season and join the broadcast booth. Matt Ryan still has a few more years with the Falcons, but chances are that they'll be looking for his replacement sooner rather than later. These aging core pieces of the rest of the NFC South is good news for the Panthers, who've already begun their rebuild!

Point #3: The Panthers have a lot of exciting core pieces

Christian McCaffrey. DJ Moore. Brian Burns. Shaq Thompson. Jeremy Chinn. Derrick Brown. Donte Jackson. Taylor Moton. These are the core pieces to start off this Panthers rebuild. These players should be the cornerstones that Matt Rhule builds around during his 7-year contract. For the only the third time in NFL history, running back Christian McCaffrey recorded a 1000-1000 season. In his rookie season, Brian Burns recorded 7.5 sacks while playing less than half of the defenive snaps. Shaq Thompson has increased his tackles each year he's been in Carolina. DJ Moore had 1175 receiving yards last year. In his debut, Jeremy Chinn recorded 8 tackles, which finishes second-most in franchise history in a rookie's debut, only behind Lester Towns in 2000. The point is that the Panthers have some pieces to work with already. And with this coaching staff, they should develop fairly quickly.

Point #4: Matt Rhule and his staff know how to build a successful program

In a speech at the 2020 AFCA convention, Matt Rhule outlined "key components to building a winning program." Rhule has displayed time and time again of his talent for tearing down programs and building them back up into contenders. At Temple, within the span of three years, they went from a 2-10 team to a 10-4 team. During his time at Baylor, Rhule came from a 1-11 team to an 11-3 team. In a press conference leading up to College Gameday coming to town, Rhule explained two things that you need to have a successful franchise. He said, “Number one is to find the right people. That’s the right coaches and then go recruit the right people on your team. It’s not always about talent or what other people say someone is, to me it’s about toughness," Rhule said. "If you want to have a tough team, you have to have tough coaches. When you build something, you’re going to go through adversity and it can build character, but it’s a lot better if you get people with character and they can just reveal it. That’s the thing I’ve learned, is just to continue to be patient and don’t sway with the wind. Don’t change. I see a lot of coaches go through their first year and they fire a bunch of assistant coaches, to me, that’s not how you build something. You build something by doing one brick, one block at a time. So I think it’s just getting the right people and patience.” After scanning this excerpt from the Dallas Star, it is evident that Rhule knows what he's talking about. So, sit still, enjoy, but most importantly, TRUST THE PROCESS!

Panthers fans, we need to be patient with Rhule and trust his process even if he makes unpopular decisions. Some have already decided on how good or bad he is or will be just after one game. This is irrational and we need to understand that it takes time to get where you want to be. For example, Matt Rhule gave a metaphor earlier in the article that reads like this, “When you order a Diet Coke and the Diet Coke comes and it’s got the label on it, and it says Diet Coke, but when you start to drink that Diet Coke it’s actually Sprite, you’re going to be confused,” said Rhule. “When you show up and you see a football team and you see their name on the schedule or when they see your football team or your position and they see your name on the table, what do they say? Brand is when image, how people see you, meets identity, what you really are.”

There ya go, Panthers fans. KEEP POUNDING! Leave your comments down below.

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