The Carolina Panthers are starting fresh with a new head coach and a franchise quarterback in tow. Playing in one of the NFL‘s weakest divisions, can the Panthers contend for a playoff spot next season? Or are they still a year away?
Let’s take a look back at Carolina’s offseason moves as we preview the Panthers’ 2023 campaign.
Everything You Need Ahead of the Carolina Panthers 2023 NFL Season
The Panthers began last season 1-4 under Matt Rhule before going 6-6 under interim head coach Steve Wilks. With Frank Reich joining holdover general manager Scott Fitterer as Carolina’s primary decision-makers, the Panthers reshaped their roster over the offseason.
Carolina Panthers Roster Changes
- Players Signed
- QB Andy Dalton
- RB Miles Sanders
- WR Damiere Byrd
- WR DJ Chark
- WR Adam Thielen
- TE Hayden Hurst
- C Bradley Bozeman
- DL Henry Anderson
- DL Shy Tuttle
- DL DeShawn Williams
- LB Kamu Grugier-Hill
- S Vonn Bell
- DB Eric Rowe
- K Eddy Pineiro
- Players Drafted
- QB Bryce Young
- WR Jonathan Mingo
- EDGE DJ Johnson
- G Chandler Zavala
- S Jammie Robinson
- Players Lost
- QB Sam Darnold (49ers)
- QB P.J. Walker (Bears)
- RB D’Onta Foreman (Bears)
- OL Pat Elflein
- DT Matt Ioannidis
- LB Cory Littleton (Texans)
- LB Damien Wilson
- CB Myles Hartsfield (49ers)
- S Juston Burris
One of the most critical moments in Panthers franchise history occurred in early March when Carolina sent a package of picks and wide receiver DJ Moore to the Bears in exchange for the No. 1 overall selection in the 2023 NFL Draft. The Panthers used that choice on Alabama’s Bryce Young, giving the team the franchise QB they’ve been searching for since Cam Newton’s departure.
Trading Moore to Chicago was necessary in order to land the draft’s top pick. But rather than try to replace Moore with a single player, Carolina is attempting to recreate his production in the aggregate. Adam Thielen, DJ Chark, and Hayden Hurst aren’t stars, but they’ll provide enough of a baseline for Young in his rookie campaign. If Young is as talented at the NFL level as he was in the collegiate ranks, he should be able to elevate the receivers around him.
Aside from players who received the franchise tag, Miles Sanders secured the largest contract among running backs this offseason. Sanders might not be as effective behind Carolina’s line as he was with the Eagles, but he’ll help the Panthers’ offense check another box in the competency department. With Bradley Bozeman back at center, Carolina’s front five projects as a league-average unit, even if left guard Austin Corbett isn’t ready to start the season after tearing his ACL.
New addition Shy Tuttle should help the Panthers’ run defense, but safety Vonn Bell was the club’s most significant defensive signing. Paired with Xavier Woods, Bell will give Carolina two steady veterans in the back end who can help limit explosive plays. Bell’s presence also means Jeremy Chinn can continue to spend most of his time in the slot.
Carolina Panthers Coaching Staff in 2023
- Head Coach: Frank Reich
- Offensive Coordinator: Thomas Brown
- QB coach: Josh McCown
- RB coach: Duce Staley
- WR coach: Shawn Jefferson
- TE coach: John Lilly
- OL coach: James Campen
- Senior assistant: Jim Caldwell
- Defensive Coordinator: Ejiro Evero
- DL coach: Todd Wash
- LB coach: Peter Hansen
- OLB coach: Tem Lukabu
- CB coach: Jonathan Cooley
- Safeties coach: Bert Watts
- Special Teams Coordinator: Chris Tabor
Reich was perhaps unfairly chosen to bear the blame for the Colts’ putrid 2022 season, but he remains one of the more respected offensive play-callers in the league. And given his lengthy history as a player and coach, Reich had the contacts to build an elite staff in Carolina.
Thomas Brown should bring some of Sean McVay’s offensive concepts to the Panthers, even if he won’t be calling plays (Reich will handle those duties). Jim Caldwell has a 62-50 record as an NFL head coach, while Josh McCown has drawn head-coaching interest despite his limited coaching track record.
There is no cap on staff salaries, and David Tepper wasn’t afraid to shell out the big bucks for Ejiro Evero, who was considered for numerous head-coaching jobs and was one of the most-coveted coordinators on the market. It won’t be a surprise if Evero lands an HC role in 2024, forcing Reich to find a replacement at DC.
Predicting the Carolina Panthers Depth Chart
Offensive Depth Chart
- QB: Bryce Young, Andy Dalton, Matt Corral
- RB: Miles Sanders, Chuba Hubbard, Rasheem Blackshear, Spencer Brown
- WR: Adam Thielen, DJ Chark, Jonathan Mingo, Terrace Marshall Jr., Laviska Shenault Jr., Shi Smith, Damiere Byrd
- TE: Hayden Hurst, Ian Thomas, Tommy Tremble
- LT: Ikem Ekwonu, Larnel Coleman
- LG: Brady Christensen, Justin McCray
- C: Bradley Bozeman, Sam Tecklenburg
- RG: Austin Corbett, Chandler Zavala
- RT: Taylor Moton, Cameron Erving
Defensive Depth Chart
- DT: Derrick Brown, Shy Tuttle, DeShawn Williams, Henry Anderson, Bravvion Roy, Marquan McCall
- EDGE: Brian Burns, Yetur Gross-Matos, DJ Johnson, Marquise Haynes, Amaré Barno
- LB: Shaq Thompson, Frankie Luvu, Brandon Smith, Kamu Grugier-Hill
- CB: Jaycee Horn, Donte Jackson, Jeremy Chinn, C.J. Henderson, Eric Rowe, Keith Taylor Jr.
- S: Vonn Bell, Xavier Woods, Sam Franklin Jr., Jammie Robinson
Special Teams Depth Chart
- K: Eddy Pineiro
- P: Johnny Hekker
- LS: J.J. Jansen
- KR: Rasheem Blackshear
- PR: Shi Smith
2022 Results and Standings
The Panthers fired Rhule after Carolina got demolished by the 49ers in Week 5, and it looked like the club’s season was over. But the Panthers didn’t pack it in under Wilks.
Carolina beat the Buccaneers in Week 7 in one of the biggest upsets of the year, took down the Seahawks in Week 14, and ran all over the Lions in Week 16. Heading into a Week 17 rematch against Tampa Bay, the Panthers needed a win to keep their playoff hopes alive.
However, the Buccaneers won that game 30-24, ending Carolina’s dreams and eliminating them from postseason contention. Many players voiced their support for Wilks to be promoted to head coach on a full-time basis, but he eventually became San Francisco’s defensive coordinator after the Panthers hired Reich.
2023 Power Ranking and Season Outlook
The Panthers rank 16th in Dalton Miller’s post-draft NFL Power Rankings, putting them squarely in a tier with other fringe playoff contenders.
Even if Young takes a while to get acclimated to the NFL, he should represent a clear improvement over the Baker Mayfield/Sam Darnold/P.J. Walker QB triad that started all of Carolina’s games in 2022. Young won a Heisman at Alabama and is one of the most accomplished college quarterbacks in recent memory. His size concerns are real, but his playmaking ability — both inside and outside structure — gives him plenty of upside.
Young won’t have a true WR1 with Moore gone, but the Panthers’ receiving corps may now be more well-rounded. Aside from Moore, no other Carolina pass catcher received more than 50 targets last season. A group of Thielen, Chark, Mingo, and Hurst might not be uber-explosive, but they’ll offer Young stability as he develops in Year 1.
The Panthers’ defense was just as woeful as the club’s offense last season. Veteran additions like Tuttle and Bell are solid, but Carolina needs to see significant leaps from young players like Jaycee Horn, Chinn, and Yetur Gross-Matos. Evero should be able to put the Panthers’ defensive playmakers in a position to succeed.
The composition of their roster aside, Carolina’s biggest advantage in 2023 might be the shortcomings of the NFC South. The Saints are the betting favorite, but any team in the division could claim the crown. If Young can play like a top-15 quarterback in his first NFL campaign, the playoffs could be within the Panthers’ reach.