By Patrick Magoon
July is here, which means, training camp is just a few weeks away. Then shortly after the conclusion of training camp, preseason begins. The regular season is going to be here before we know it.
This year, the Carolina Panthers are on a mission to finish the regular season at the top of the NFC South and put together two consecutive winning seasons for the first time. While most people expect the Panthers to be playoff contenders in 2018, there are a lot of uncertainties that make it difficult to predict how the offense and defense will perform this year. The Panthers have added new coordinators on both sides of the ball and moved existing personnel to other parts of the organization. Also, we can’t forget about any new changes Panthers owner David Tepper might bring to the organization.
On that bombshell, here are five bold predictions for the Carolina Panthers offense.
1) Cam Newton will throw for 4000+ yards for the second time in his career
The only time Cam Newton has accumulated 4000+ passing yards in a season was back in 2011 (his rookie year). Last season he carried a wide receiver group comprised off guys like Kaelin Clay, Russell Shepard, Damiere Byrd (until he got hurt), Fozzy Whittaker, and Brenton Bersin to the playoffs. He threw the ball for 3,302 yards with this group of receivers.
This year, the Panthers made it a priority to get Newton some help. Newton will have the option to throw the ball to first-round draft pick DJ Moore, veteran receiver Torrey Smith, or Jarius Wright. Those additions plus a new offensive coordinator should help Cam break some passing records this year.
2) Devin Funchess will experience his first 1000-yard season
Devin Funchess has been improving every season. He more than doubled his total receiving yards from 2016 to 2017. Last season Funchess was 160 receiving yards away from racking up 1000 or more total receiving yards. I think that he will surprise a lot of fans this season. This will be Funchess’s last season on his rookie contract, so there is no reason for him not to go all out.
3) Taylor Moton will finish the season as a top five offensive guard
Ron Rivera is still deciding which offensive guard currently on the roster will replace Andrew Norwell. Currently, veteran Amini Silatolu has received a majority of first team reps at practice and is the current favorite to start at left guard. Moton, however, has more upside. He was a second-round pick in the 2017 draft. Moton is a versatile player that can line up almost anywhere on the line.
4) CJ Anderson will run for 1000+ yards this year
Anderson, 27 still has plenty of gas left in the tank. In fact, he has shown no signs of slowing down. Anderson more than doubled his rushing yards total from 2016 to 2017 finishing with 1008 rushing yards for the first time in his career.
While about 2 inches and 15 pounds smaller, Anderson runs with a similar intensity as Jonathon Stewart did while he was with the Panthers. Anderson can use his muscular legs and agility to navigate through open gaps in the offensive line. He has shown that can pick up extra yards after contact.
5) Ian Thomas plays in at least four games this year
Ian Thomas, who is that? You know, the guy behind Greg Olsen on the depth chart? The Carolina Panthers selected former Indiana TE Ian Thomas in the fourth round of the 2018 NFL draft. In a few years, this will go down as a highly underrated draft pick.
While most people haven’t heard of Ian Thomas, he has the perfect NFL-ready body frame to become a successful in-line blocker and end zone target. It is unclear when he will get to play in a game, but keep in mind, he has been training under one of the best tight ends in the league. I think we will see this guy a lot in the end zone. Newton could call a play where Olsen and Thomas line up on opposite sides of the ball and run a short out route into the end zone. Odds are, one tall tight end will be open.