Taylor Heinicke (6), Kyle Allen (7) and Will Grier (3) will compete to be Cam Newton’s primary backup for the Panthers.
CHARLOTTE, N.C. — The Carolina Panthers open training camp on July 24 at Wofford College in Spartanburg, South Carolina. Here’s a closer look at a few storylines:
How much of the team’s success in 2019 depends on Cam Newton’s right shoulder?
The most used phrase in the Carolina locker room is how Cam Newton goes, so go the Panthers. So it is essential for Newton to stay healthy for an entire season for the team to not just make the playoffs, but make a run once there. Newton is unique to any player in the league because of his threat as a runner. He keeps defenses honest. When he was healthy last season, the Panthers were 6-2 and looking like a legitimate Super Bowl contender, particularly with Newton’s newfound accuracy in Norv Turner’s offense. When the arm became sore and weak, they lost seven straight.
Which of the backup quarterbacks gives the Panthers the best chance to win, should Newton have a setback ?
Third-round pick Will Grier. The Panthers made the former West Virginia star their first draft pick at quarterback since selecting Newton with the first pick in 2011 because they believe Grier had the skills to develop into a starter. While inexperience is a factor, Greer has a history of winning at every level. He’s smart and accurate and can manage Turner’s system if Newton’s shoulder becomes an issue. He appears to have the edge over Taylor Heinicke and Kyle Allen.
Will Greg Olsen at age 34 be as effective after coming back from injury?
Olsen certain believes he can be. With Rob Gronkowski now retired, Olsen feels confident that when healthy, few tight ends in the NFL are better than him. His three consecutive 1,000-yard receiving seasons from 2014-16 are proof of that. When Olsen first suffered the foot injury in 2017, the surgery performed was simply to get him back quickly for a playoff run as quickly. The second surgery last season, when Olsen re-injured the foot, was a more permanent solution, and history shows players have come back strong from it.
What will it take for Christian McCaffrey to become the third player in NFL history to have 1,000 rushing and receiving yards in the same season?
First, he’ll have to be on the field a lot, close to the 91.3 offensive snaps a game he played a year ago. He’ll also have to remain the focal point for Newton in the passing game, as he was a year ago when he set an NFL single-season record for a running back with 107 catches. Getting 1,000 yards receiving is the hardest of the two tasks. He’ll also have to stay healthy. The two 1,000-1,000 backs in league history (Roger Craig and Marshall Faulk) played in all 16 games. Turner’s system will revolve around McCaffrey, and that gives him a shot.
What’s the biggest challenge for the defense as it transitions to a 3-4 base front?
Chemistry and continuity. The talent is there with Gerald McCoy, Kawann Short and Dontari Poe up front, and Luke Kuechly, Shaq Thompson, Bruce Irvin and Mario Addison at linebacker. Not to mention first-round draft pick Brian Burns. This group could be as strong as any front seven in the NFL if they mesh. They should greatly improve a pass rush that ranked 27th in the NFL in sacks a year ago. Don’t be surprised if there’s a jump to the top five. The key will be the secondary. Three of the four starters – SS Eric Reid, CB James Bradberry, CB Donte Jackson – are solid, but there’s still uncertainty at free safety and with their depth.