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NFL Draft

Five Things We Learned About Matt Rhule’s Panthers From 2020 NFL Draft

  • The Draft Network
  • April 28, 2020
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A fascinating era of Panthers football is upon us. With major turnover on the roster, coaching staff and ownership since Carolina was last a contender, a new course, under the direction of coach Matt Rhule, has been initiated

With Rhule’s coaching staff assembled and the major portions of the offseason now complete, in terms of free agency and the draft, there has been plenty of information to give us a glimpse into what this team will look like. 

Let’s examine five things we’ve learned about Rhule’s Panthers coming out of the 2020 NFL Draft. 

Defense Will Be Multiple

Coordinator Phil Snow said his defense will be multiple at his introductory press conference in January; all of the moves Carolina has made since affirms that, especially in the draft. While Yetur Gross-Matos is ideally suited to play 4-3 defensive end, he has some appeal in a standup role in a 3-4 front. Derrick Brown lined up at every technique along the defensive line with regularity in Auburn. Bravvion Roy profiles as a nose tackle, but he has surprising gap-penetration skills. 

The three defensive linemen Carolina added in the draft, combined with the existing personnel, promises to result in a variety of defensive alignments. 

Defensive Picks Were Not An Accident 

The Panthers made seven picks and they were exclusively used on defensive prospects. It wasn’t by mistake. 

The unusual offseason due to the COVID-19 pandemic will be especially difficult for teams with new coaching staffs. With limited time and live reps together, installing a new offensive system will be a great challenge. That is much easier to accomplish on defense and why I believe Carolina only drafted defensive prospects. 

Coordinator Joe Brady’s spread, concept-based offense is a lot for veterans to grasp much less mixing in rookies. Problem avoided. 

Slot Safety Will Be a Thing

Some fascinating concepts can be found in Baylor’s defense. My favorite component of Snow’s 3-3-5 base was the role of the slot safety, which was manned by Grayland Arnold last season. The selections of Jeremy Chinn and Kenny Robinson indicate Snow is bringing it to the NFL. 

While it’s unlikely to work as a base defense, sub-packages that include a slot safety that is a bit of a roamer to counter athletic quarterbacks, the screen game and strength in the middle of the field will be a fun dynamic to see play out. 

Confidence in OL, LB, CBs 

Carolina couldn’t have filed all of its holes in one offseason; it’s impossible. With that said, the Panthers didn’t draft any linebackers or offensive linemen despite obvious needs. While they did land two cornerbacks, they weren’t higher picks, so Year 1 expectations should be low. Entering the season with Donte Jackson and Corn Elder as the outside corners is concerning.

Perhaps trading back a few times would have been the smart play for Hurney to acquire more draft capital and add more young talent to the roster.

This Rebuild Will Be a Process 

The future of the Panthers under Rhule is exciting. He’s a proven program-builder, and the approach promises to be innovative. However, early expectations should be quite low. Installing brand new schemes on both sides of the ball in what is likely to be a reduced offseason is a major challenge on top of the many needs that still exist on the roster. 

Carolina’s lack of depth across the board and the scheduled starters on the offensive line and at cornerback are difficult to imagine success with. 

While the Saints and Buccaneers enjoy the twilight of Drew Brees and Tom Brady’s respective careers, the Panthers will still be developing, which positions them well in a few years. Wins are likely to be few and far between in the early portions of Rhule’s tenure.

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