Sports Update: Carolina On My Mind (4/1/20) By: Josh Scott
Updated: Apr 12, 2020
Today is April Fools Day, but it’s no joke that COVID-19 remains a global presence. As the Coronavirus continues to tighten its grip on the world, the world of sports continues to stay on pause.
For the Carolina Panthers, however, it’s been a very busy offseason. First-year head coach Matt Rhule and general manager Marty Hurney have wasted no time in making major roster changes in an attempt to better prepare for long-term success. Many players, mostly on the defensive side such as Mario Addison, James Bradberry, and Gerald McCoy have been lost in free agency. Others like Eric Reid, Trai Turner, and most notably Cam Newton, arguably one of the best to ever step foot into Bank of America Stadium, have been released or traded. Safety Tre Boston, defensive lineman Kawaan Short, and kicker Graham Gano highlight the handful of remaining players who were a part of the Rivera Era, including that magical 2015 season.
Notable additions to the team, through free agency, are offensive tackle Russell Okung (who replaces Turner), wide receiver Robby Anderson, as well as quarterbacks Teddy Bridgewater and PJ Walker. Bridgewater returns to the starting-quarterback position for the first time since 2016, when he was the starting QB for the Minnesota Vikings. Walker becomes the first XFL player to be signed by an NFL team. Anderson and Walker reunite with Rhule, who coached both players during his four-year stint at Temple.
With the NFL Draft less than a month away, and a 7th pick in the first round at their disposal, Matt Rhule and company will have some major decisions to make. With the lack of playmakers on defense, don’t be surprised if the Panthers choose to draft Clemson linebacker Isaiah Simmons, cornerback Jeff Okudah from Ohio State, or defensive tackle Derrick Brown of Auburn. Simmons turned many heads during the NFL Combine a few weeks ago with his freakish speed and agility. Many agree he would be the perfect candidate to replace recently-retired Luke Kuechly. Okudah, arguably the best cornerback in the draft, would help strengthen Carolina’s secondary, which has struggled mightily in the past. With James Bradberry’s departure, the Panthers will need someone to help lock down receivers on fellow NFC South teams like Mike Evans (Tampa Bay), Julio Jones (Atlanta), and Michael Thomas (New Orleans). Brown would greatly help Carolina’s defensive line, which was one of the worst in the league in stopping the run last season.
A new era has begun in the Queen City. Can the men in black and blue return to championship-caliber form under new leadership? Can owner David Tepper deliver on his desire for consistent, long-term success? Those are questions that could take years to answer, no fooling around.