Carolina Panthers Preseason Storylines

August 14, 2018

Coming off of an 11-5 season before being eliminated in the Wild Card Round to the New Orleans Saints, the Carolina Panthers enter the 2018 season with high expectations. While many experts have picked the Atlanta Falcons or New Orleans Saints to win the NFC South, the Panthers are looking to win double-digit games in back-to-back years for the first time in franchise history. 

There is plenty to talk about as we enter the season, but here are 10 Carolina Panthers storylines to keep an eye on this season.

1. Can Cam Newton finally silence the critics about his accuracy? Even while winning the 2015 MVP, Cam Newton has been one of the most polarizing and criticized players in the NFL. With a 58 percent accuracy rating in his career, many still claim that Newton is not that good of a quarterback. We know he can run the ball, but what does he have to do to prove that he can also throw it? In my opinion, he is a top 10 quarterback in the league, but to others, he doesn't crack their top 15. If he doesn't reach his MVP form again, the criticism may not go away. 

2. Does Christian McCaffrey turn into the number one running back they hoped for when they drafted him? McCaffrey didn't have many opportunities to prove himself as a starting running back last year behind Jonathan Stewart, but this year, head coach Ron Rivera said he could receive up to 200 touches on the ground. McCaffrey has proven he can be a receiving threat at the least, but will he finally have the opportunity to show why he was one of the nation's top running backs at Stanford? 

3. Will Julius Peppers stay healthy and continue performing at a high level? When the Panthers resigned Julius Peppers last season after letting him walk in 2010, nobody expected him to make as big of an impact as he did. Racking up 11.0 sacks, 21 tackles and two forced fumbles, Peppers was a big part in helping the Panthers reach the playoffs. However, Peppers has been on the PUP throughout Training Camp and is already 38 years old as he enters year #16 in the league. He has been pretty healthy throughout his career, but if he begins to trend downwards, the Panthers defense will have to reshuffle. 

4. How big of an impact does Thomas Davis' suspension make? Linebacker Thomas Davis made headlines this offseason when he received a four-game suspension from the league for PEDs. While he says he wasn't aware that it was banned, he will still be missing the team's first four games in a season that he said would be his final one. Shaq Thompson will be looked upon to step up in a big way and the Panthers are hoping that Davis' loss won't be too much to handle. While it shouldn't be a problem, Davis has been the heart and soul of this team since he came into the league 14 years ago. 

Panthers vet LB Thomas Davis enjoying the final moments of what could be his last training camp practice with the Panthers (he’s a free agent after the season) for as long as he can. Last one on the field signing autographs for fans in the heat.

— Steve Reed (@SteveReedAP) August 13, 2018

5. How much will David Tepper continue interacting with the players and fans? Former owner Jerry Richardson was not the most interactive guy when it came making public appearances. He was mostly known for riding around in a golf cart during the team's pregame. New owner David Tepper has already become a fan favorite with his loose demeanor and time spent with the players and fans at Training Camp, but will it continue? It'll be something worth keeping an eye on. 

6. How long does the secondary hold up? It is no secret that the Panthers secondary is the team's biggest weakness. It didn't help suffering so many injuries during through Training Camp and the offseason. With very little depth, many are wondering who will step up and if the position group can hold up long enough before ultimately hurting the team? 

7. How well do Cam Newton and Norv Turner mesh? So far throughout the offseason, reports have said that Cam and new offensive coordinator Norv Turner have gotten along great. Turner has been a coach in the NFL for 26 years and it will be his first time with a quarterback that is not exclusively a pocket passer. Turner was brought in by Ron Rivera to help Newton get to that next level, but Newton's game could be something that doesn't need to be messed with all that much. Mike Shula was much more conservative when it came to play calling, and losing that alone may help the Turner-Newton relationship.

.@PanthersMax on the relationship @CameronNewton has with Norv Turner: "The two really get along with each other, and you can tell that Cam respects Norv as well. I think this relationship will help Cam in the long run."

— WFNZ-AM (@wfnz) August 13, 2018

8. How much will the offensive line miss Andrew Norwell? Losing Norwell at left guard was a huge subtraction and the Panthers don't have much offensive line depth, to begin with. Losing Amini Silatolu for an extended period time will definitely hurt the Panthers, but they do have rookie Brendan Mahon who could step in. If Jeremiah Sirles returns healthy and Greg Van Hoten begins to play more consistently, there will be a big question mark at the left guard position. This is probably one of the most important position groups to keep an eye on.

9. How big of an impact will the rookie class have? Many Panthers coaches and players have already called this one of the best rookie classes they have had. It looks like one of the best classes that general manager Marty Hurney has drafted during his tenures in Carolina. The question remains, which ones will step up the most? Cornerback Donte Jackson has a very high chance of starting in week one, wide receiver DJ Moore was praised by Steve Smith as the next great Panthers receiver and Ian Thomas has proven his worth as possibly being the future tight end for this team. 

10. Will the Panthers logo be added to center field instead of the NFL logo? Since David Tepper took over as owner, fans and players, including Cam Newton have begun a movement to put the Panthers logo in the middle of the field at Bank of America Stadium. We will see on Friday whether or not it is there, but it also could take a few weeks until it is approved to be placed. 

Cam is asking for "an extra little nugget of swag" by replacing the NFL shield with the team logo at midfield
(via @Panthers)

— Sports Illustrated (@SInow) August 4, 2018