3 Issues the Panthers Must Address to Get Back to the Postseason in Their First Year Under Matt Rhule in 2020

Max Staley
Matt Rhule on the sidelines against Texas Tech.
Matt Rhule on the sidelines against Texas Tech. / Richard Rodriguez/Getty Images

Carolina Panthers team owner David Tepper wasted no time shaking up the franchise. This was Tepper's first season as the owner, and the team quickly parted ways with Ron Rivera in favor of former Baylor Bears head coach Matt Rhule. And it looks like Rhule is here to stay.

The Panthers' new coach signed a 7-year, $60 million deal (that could reportedly get as high as $70 million). Tepper appears committed to building toward a long-term future with Rhule, but this is a pretty talented roster, and Carolina might only be a few key moves short of a postseason berth in 2020.

With that in mind, here are three moves Carolina can make that can help them get back into the playoffs next season.

1. Keep Cam Newton

Cam Newton missed 14 games in the 2019 NFL season.
Cam Newton missed 14 games in the 2019 NFL season. / Grant Halverson/Getty Images

Without question, Cam Newton is the most talented quarterback on this roster. Kyle Allen filled in admirably at times, (Will Grier, less so) but if the Panthers want to win now, Newton is their best bet. With elite skill-position players like D.J. Moore and Christian McCaffrey, the pieces for a dynamic offense are in place, if Newton can stay healthy. That's a big if, but there aren't many viable alternatives for Carolina. The Panthers are slated to pick No. 7, meaning they'll likely miss out on top prospects Joe Burrow and Tua Tagovailoa, barring a franchise-changing trade. There aren't many options in free agency, either. If the Panthers have postseason aspirations, Newton is their man.

2. Sign or Draft Defenders Who Can Stop the Run

Luke Kuechly walks off the field against the New Orleans Saints in Week 17.
Luke Kuechly walks off the field against the New Orleans Saints in Week 17. / Jacob Kupferman/Getty Images

The Panthers' run defense was atrocious in 2019. Carolina was the league's worst unit against the run, per Football Outsiders' DVOA metrics, and the Panthers surrendered league highs in rushing touchdowns (31) and yards per carry (5.2), ultimately allowing the fourth-most rushing yards per game (143.5). Stopping the run isn't nearly as important as it has been in the past – but it sure matters when you're getting gashed on every attempt. Derrick Brown and Javon Kinlaw are interior lineman who could make sense in the first-round, while Isiah Simmons is an athletic linebacker that could revitalize this front seven. Jamie Collins is an intriguing option in free agency as well, though Carolina would be betting he can play at a high level outside of New England – something he certainly didn't prove during his tenure in Cleveland.

3. Sign or Draft Pass Protectors

Darryl Williams takes the field against the Tennessee Titans.
Darryl Williams takes the field against the Tennessee Titans. / Jacob Kupferman/Getty Images

While not nearly as ineffective as their run defense, the Panthers' offensive line wasn't exactly great in 2019. Carolina had the third-lowest pass blocking win rate in the NFL (50.0 percent), and the Panthers were tied for the league's sixth-highest sack rate (8.4 percent). The constant pressure caused a lot of problems for Allen, who fumbled the ball 13 times (T. No-4 in the NFL). Regardless of who's under center next season, Carolina needs to address its issues up front. Someone like Georgia's Andrew Thomas could make a lot of sense in the first round, though a making a run at Brandon Scherff, Jack Conklin or Anthony Castonzo in free agency could help improve this unit as well.

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Max Staley is not a FanDuel employee. In addition to providing DFS gameplay advice, Max Staley also participates in DFS contests on FanDuel using his personal account, username mstaley1212. While the strategies and player selections recommended in his articles are his personal views, he may deploy different strategies and player selections when entering contests with his personal account. The views expressed in their articles are the author's alone and do not necessarily reflect the views of FanDuel.