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New Orleans Saints Opponent Preview: Week 6

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What did the Saints Week 6 opponents, the NFC Champion Carolina Panthers, do this offseason to improve?

Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

We continue our series of articles previewing the Saints regular season opponents, with the Carolina Panthers.

Week 6: vs the Carolina Panthers

Week 15: @ the Carolina Panthers

Our friends over at Cat Scratch Reader contributed this piece, listing all of the biggest additions/subtractions from the Panthers this offseason:

Notable free agent additions:

  • DT Paul Soliai - Expected to back-up Star Lotulelei

  • C/OG Gino Gradkowski - versatile back-up for the interior o-line

  • P Mike Scifres - coming off a leg injury

Notable free agent departures:

  • CB Josh Norman - Panthers rescinded franchise tag and he signed with the Redskins

  • DE Jared Allen - retirement

  • CB Charles Tillman - he is still a free agent as he heals from an ACL injury; says if he plays again it will be for the Panthers only

  • P Brad Nortman - Jaguars overpaid for his services

  • S Roman Harper - Panthers did not offer; now back in New Orleans

Trades:

Ha! As if Dave Gettleman would trade a player away. He did make a draft pick trade to move up in the draft at one point.

Draft picks expected to contribute as rookies:

  • DT Vernon Butler - Should be in the DT rotation at some point

  • One of the rookie CBs (James Bradberry, Darryl Worley, Zack Sanchez) should get significant snaps if not start; currently Bradberry has the edge

Biggest offseason addition:

At 345 lbs that would be Soliai. Impact-wise the Panthers didn't add a veteran starter besides the punter.

Biggest storyline heading into training camp:

The return of WR Kelvin Benjamin. Though statistically the Panthers didn't seem to miss Benjamin don't tell Cam Newton that. Benjamin's 73 catches for 1,003 yards and 9 TDs as a rookie in 2014 was sorely missed at times in 2015.

Under-the-radar storyline heading into training camp:

WR Devin Funchess has turned heads at OTAs with his maturity (he's only 22), route running and hands. While the Panthers top 3 WRs (Benjamin, Ginn and Brown) can certainly make great catches, all three are prone to drops. If Funchess can prove to be more reliable he can garner more targets and challenge as the Panthers #2 WR.

Notable injuries heading into training camp:

  • RB Jonathan Stewart appears to still have issues from his leg injury in SB50. Though he is expected to be 100% by TC we will be keeping an eye on him.

  • CB Bene Benwikere and WR Kelvin Benjamin have been declared 100% from their 2015 season ending injuries.

  • No other significant injuries
    The Panthers have won the NFC South the last three years, played in last year's Super Bowl, and have beaten the Saints in their last three meetings with the Saints most recent victory all the way back at the end of October in 2014. Even in the lone home game this year, the Saints will be the clear underdog.
    So what says you, you unbiased Saints fans? Can the Saints sneak out a victory? Could they dare sweep the champion Panthers? If a split is the ultimate outcome, do they win at home or on the road? Or will the Panthers streak against the Saints continue through this season?