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Cam Newton’s health the key to Panthers’ success

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Our friends from Cat Scratch Reader preview the Saints’ division rival.

Carolina Panthers v New Orleans Saints Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images

We’ll continue a series of opponent preview posts for the New Orleans Saints opponents in 2019. Next, we’ll take a look at our first of three NFC South opponent, the Carolina Panthers. Our friends over at Cat Scratch Reader took some time to give us Saints fans the scoop on our division rival.

Carolina Panthers v New Orleans Saints Photo by Sean Gardner/Getty Images

Week 12 in New Orleans & Week 17 in Carolina

Notable free agent additions:

DT Gerald McCoy, C Matt Paradis, EDGE Bruce Irvin, WR Chris Hogan

Over/Under:

7.5 wins -- It all depends on Cam Newton’s recovery from offseason shoulder surgery. If his recovery is a success and he’s back to 100%, then I’d take the over. If Cam has any setbacks, then I’d take the under. The Panthers’ 2019 fortunes rest on the (literal) shoulders of their franchise quarterback. If Cam is fully healthy the Panthers are a team who can legitimately compete for the NFC South title and make a serious run in the playoffs. If Cam is not fully healthy the Panthers are a team who can legitimately compete for a top ten pick in the 2020 NFL Draft.

Most exciting rookie:

Brian Burns. The Panthers are planning to run a hybrid defense using multiple fronts that should allow Burns to show off his strengths as a pass rusher and provide the Panthers with something they sorely lacked in 2018 — the ability to get to the opposing quarterback with consistency.

Position battle to keep an eye on:

The only spot on the offensive line that is currently guaranteed is right guard (Trai Turner). Who starts at center is wholly dependent on whether Matt Paradis is recovered from a broken leg that ended his 2018 season, but left guard and both tackle spots are fully up for grabs. Taylor Moton, Daryl Williams and rookie Greg Little are all competing for the two starting tackle spots, and Greg Van Roten, Tyler Larsen and rookie Dennis Daley are all in the mix for the left guard spot. (Daley is also a potential candidate for depth at tackle, but has the experience to play both tackle and guard.) The Panthers will probably rely on veterans for the starting tackle spots to start the year, but there’s a chance that Little could have a solid camp and earn the starting left tackle gig to keep Moton (or Williams) at right tackle and force the other one to move to left guard.

Biggest storyline heading into training camp:

Is Cam Newton 100% healthy? His shoulder was barely functional towards the end of the 2018 season (as evidenced by his inability to throw a pass more than 30 yards downfield) and the Panthers’ season took a nosedive because of it. If Newton is fully recovered from offseason shoulder surgery then the Panthers will have a chance to be special in 2019, but if he has any setbacks it will be another disappointing year in Carolina.

Under-the-radar storyline heading into camp:

Who is going to win the backup quarterback job? The Panthers drafted Will Grier in the third round of the 2019 draft, but they also really like Kyle Allen and Taylor Heinicke so it’s not exactly a given that Grier will win the No. 2 spot on the depth chart. This could be the most important positional battle during training camp if Cam Newton isn’t fully recovered from offseason surgery in time for the season opener and needs a week or two before being put back in the lineup. The wrong decision here could put the Panthers in a 0-1 or 0-2 hole, which is never a good spot to be in.

Notable injuries heading into training camp:

Aside from the obvious (Cam Newton), center Matt Paradis is recovering from a broken leg that ended his 2018 season, and offensive tackle Daryl Williams is recovering from a knee injury that put him out of action last year. All three are expected to be ready by the time training camp starts.

Obscure player on the 90-man roster that will be a preseason star (and likely later cut):

For reasons that will never be understood, Panthers fans seem to love running back Reggie Bonnafon. He’ll get a lot of run during the preseason to prevent Christian McCaffrey from doing too much work, and he’ll probably rush for 150 yards and two touchdowns against the fourth string defense in the final preseason game to become a Panthers legend. Fans will think he has a chance to be the backup running back to McCaffrey and will be outraged when he’s released and signed to the practice squad because no other team picked him up off the waiver wire. For what it’s worth, I can kinda understand the disappointment fans will endure since Jared Green is still waiting for Canton to call him.

***

This game comes right before a game that could have significant playoff implications, the Week 7 contest against the Chicago Bears. The Saints can’t afford to look past the Jaguars.

So what says you, you unbiased Saints fans? Can the Saints take care of business against Jacksonville? Vote in the poll. Explain in the comments. And make sure you also check out DraftDividends.com, a website for a new book I’m writing currently titled Draft Picks and Dividends: A Fantasy Football Player’s Guide to Understanding the Stock Market.

Poll

How will the Saints fare against the Jaguars?

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