Unlock More Content Like This With A
Footballguys Premium Subscription
"Footballguys is the best premium
fantasy football only site on the planet."
Matthew Berry, NBC Sports EDGE
Go back to the Draft Kit to see other teams
Summary from the Final Week of Camp
With training camp coming to a close, Sam Darnold has Carolina fans and coaches pleased with their new quarterback. Darnold played well, and his arm strength brings an element to the offense that they did not have in 2020. Offensive coordinator Joe Brady said of Darnold, “I think right now he (Sam Darnold) is making great decisions. He’s comfortable in the system and taking what the defense is giving him, so that’s what excites me. Right now, we are still in the evaluation process. It’s not the stats that matter in a preseason game. There’s a rhyme and reason for what you’re doing, so for him, it’s about playing in the system and making the routing plays routinely.” Darnold played the first half of the final preseason game. Head coach Matt Rhule said they would be running a basic playbook focusing on getting Darnold into a rhythm. Darnold responded by going 19-for-25 for 162 yards and two touchdowns. Coming into the week, it appeared that Will Grier was in the lead for the QB2 role, but Grier played the 4th quarter with the 3rd string, while P.J. Walker played with the backups. Neither did much in the passing game, but Grier did run for 22 yards and a touchdown.
While Christian McCaffrey has been able to practice fully and looks ready to play, the coaching staff has opted to keep him out of game situations. They know what they have with him and do not want to risk injury unnecessarily. Resting McCaffrey and injuries to the other veteran running backs on the roster opened the door for rookie Chuba Hubbard. Hubbard carried the ball more than any other Panthers back this preseason and averaged over five yards-per-carry and almost eight yards per catch. He’s not going to put Christian McCaffrey out of a job or even steal many snaps, but if McCaffrey were to miss time again, Hubbard looks like he can handle the workload.
After battling injuries for much of camp, both D.J. Moore and Robby Anderson were able to practice this week. This marked the first time the three top receivers were active together, and the results inspire confidence. As mentioned, Darnold completed 76% of his passes, and he got all three receivers involved. Moore caught all six of his targets, while Anderson secured just two of five but scored a touchdown. Camp standout Terrace Marshall had another great game, catching three of four passes for 43 yards and a touchdown. Even without Christian McCaffrey, the passing game looked great. Moore and Anderson both played well last season but should improve if Darnold is better than Teddy Bridgewater. The Darnold-to-Marshall connection was evident early in camp and held strong throughout.
The depth chart has been up in the air for most of the summer, but it appears that Dan Arnold put the final nail in the coffin. Arnold started in the preseason finale and logged 30 snaps with Darnold. He caught three balls for 25 yards. That’s more than last year’s starter, Ian Thomas, has done this entire preseason. The two began training camp as co-starters, but Arnold is now the No. 1, and Thomas is fighting for a roster spot behind rookie Tommy Tremble. Tremble had two catches for 45 yards this week, while Thomas managed just nine yards on one reception.
The team acquired Ryan Santoso from the Giants and promptly released Joey Slye. Santoso made field goals from 52 and 27 yards and three extra-point attempts to seal the deal in the win over the Steelers. Head coach Matt Rhule said Santoso showed “moxie,” making the kicks less than 24 hours after joining the team. Slye was uncontested to open camp but missed three field-goal attempts and an extra point attempt during the preseason.
The defense has dealt with minor injuries all summer, but every projected Week 1 starter played in the preseason finale. For the second straight week, the starting defense did not allow a touchdown in the first half. After holding the Baltimore offense to three first-half points last week, the Panthers kept the Steelers off the scoreboard entirely until the third quarter. Brian Burns has been getting after the quarterback in every practice and came away with an interception in the game. The defense has been emphasizing sacks and turnovers and had one of each in the game. The competition at middle linebacker ended when the team traded Denzel Perryman to the Raiders for a seventh-round pick. Jermaine Carter won the job and the praise of Coach Rhule: "I think Jermaine Carter is one of the unsung, one of our best defensive players all around. Outstanding player, who also does everything right." The defense is young but has many returning starters and had a great preseason. They finished 23rd in quarterback sacks last year but made that a focus this offseason. Free-agent Haasan Reddick alone, who had 12.5 sacks last year, will improve the pass rush.
Summary from Week 3 of Camp
Sam Darnold has gotten mainly positive reviews this summer, but overall the offense has not looked great. Head coach Matt Rhule put it bluntly after one of the final practices, “I didn't like the passing game at all.” He praised Darnold for “doing all the right things,” which is hard to juxtapose against his general frustration with the passing offense. As Darnold goes, so goes the passing game. Darnold played a few snaps against Baltimore and should see a more significant role in the final preseason game. After playing with the third-stringers last week, Will Grier took most of the work against the Ravens and played well, completing 11-of-14 passes for 144 yards. Grier and P.J. Walker have ping-ponged back and forth in their fight for the No. 2 job, but Walker was awful this week, and Grier has the edge.
Christian McCaffrey did not play against the Ravens, but the running back is rounding into elite form. He’s the key to unlocking coordinator Joe Brady’s passing scheme. When McCaffrey runs well, he opens up passing lanes for Darnold. When things go awry, Darnold can easily dump the ball off to him. After several reports to the contrary, Chuba Hubbard appears to be operating as the No. 2 for the team. He ran well against the Colts in the first preseason game and handled nine carries for 27 yards this week, while no other player carried the ball more than four times. Injuries have played a part in his rise, as Rodney Smith and Reggie Bonnafon have missed time. Both Smith and Bonnafon were having good camps, but Hubbard has seized the opportunity with them out.