The 2018 Carolina Panthers season looked like it was going in the right direction. They were 6-2 after their big Week 7 win against Ryan Fitzpatrick and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, a 42-28 shellacking that saw Cam Newton and Christian McCaffrey put together two of their best performances of the season.
But then, everything that could possibly go wrong, went wrong.
Cam Newton’s production slipped off, and it was later discovered that he had hurt the same shoulder that he had to get surgery on in 2017. Backups Taylor Heinicke and Kyle Allen started to try and keep the Panthers in playoff contention, but the New Orleans Saints and Atlanta Falcons had other plans.
Christian McCaffrey, while being unarguably the Panthers’ most productive offensive player last year, did not have a single touchdown in the Panthers’ last three games, after recording 13 up to that point.
The biggest thing that stood out to me was the absence of the Panthers’ once-strong pass rush. For a team that has guys like Luke Kuechly, Shaq Thompson, and Kawaan Short, the sack total was not there. Julius Peppers, one of the best defensive ends to ever play the game, only had two sacks in November. This was probably the biggest surprise, as we had brought in Peppers to improve upon a pass rush from last year. Peppers finished the season with only five sacks.
The absence of a pass rush is a big reason why we brought in Gerald McCoy, one of the greatest defensive tackles of our generation, on a one-year deal back on Monday, June 3. Let me just say how McCoy and the Panthers are mutually excited to have formed this new relationship. The Panthers have embraced McCoy’s signing, and truly do think (I believe so, too) that McCoy will be a difference maker for them. McCoy was recently seen with a video on his Twitter page running onto the Bank of America field, showing his excitement being in Charlotte, a destination he said that he wanted to go to.
Last season, McCoy only had six sacks, widely considered to be a down season for him. After the Bucs’ loss to the Falcons in Week 6, McCoy was seen in a walking boot. He had injured his calf. This did not affect McCoy, however, as he returned to play against our Panthers on November 4, 2018. From his return through Sunday, November 25, 2018 against the San Francisco 49ers, McCoy recorded at least half a sack in each game.
The Buccaneers, after a disappointing 5-11 season that saw them start 2-0, decided that they no longer needed McCoy. The Carolina Panthers, Cleveland Browns, and Baltimore Ravens all took advantage of that, as each team got McCoy to meet with them.
Luckily, McCoy chose our Panthers, and in the upcoming season, he will look to be the captain of a defensive line that recorded the sixth-least amount of sacks in the league (32) last year. For the young guys, McCoy will serve as a mentor. For the veterans, he will serve as another strong player to work with towards the ultimate goal of winning a Super Bowl.
Welcome to Carolina, Gerald McCoy. We are happy to have you this upcoming year, and hope to have you for the rest of your career.
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