During the NFL season, our team of 300-plus staff spend around 20,000 man-hours grading and analyzing every play of the NFL season, from the kickoff in the Hall of Fame game to the final play of the Super Bowl.
Now that the 2018 season is officially in the books, we can now take a look back at the season through the eyes of each NFL team and using the grades and statistics that we have compiled, we and detail what went right, what went wrong, and explain what that team has to look forward to.
Below is the 2018 season recap for the Carolina Panthers.
The Carolina Panthers came up short of a return trip to the postseason as their deficiencies that saw them out in 2017 came back to bite them in 2018, and the face of the franchise, Cam Newton, lacked offensive firepower.
What went right?
- Christian McCaffrey proved he could handle a bell-cow role in the backfield, tallying the second-most snaps out of the backfield of any running back at 337 and still produce a top-10 overall grade at 83.0.
- Luke Kuechly was once again his dominant-self, finishing second in terms of overall grade, as he was the league’s top linebacker in run defense with a 92.3 grade. His 61 defensive stops were the most of any linebacker in the regular season.
- Kawann Short impressed in run defense, racking up 24 stops against the run, good enough for a 12.6% run-stop percentage – fourth among all interior defensive linemen.
What went wrong?
- Quarterback Cam Newton struggled to push the ball down the field, and he put the ball in harm’s way more than all but one other QB.
- While the Panthers’ defense was good against the run, they rarely got to opposing quarterbacks as no defensive player ranked inside the top 30 at their position in terms of pass-rush productivity. Mario Addison’s 43 total pressures ranked only 33rd among all edge defenders.
- During the 2018 NFL season, 229 defensive backs logged at least 116 snaps in coverage, and no Carolina Panther finished with a coverage grade in the top 100.
Highest-grade player on Offense
RB Christian McCaffrey – 83.0
In his feature role in the backfield, McCaffrey finished as the highest-graded offensive player for the Panthers as he totaled the third-most total touches with 327 while he forced 53 combined missed tackles to tie for fourth among NFL running backs.
Highest-grade player on Defense
LB Luke Kuechly – 90.7
Linebacker Luke Kuechly finished as Carolina’s highest-graded player on defense as he added the NFL’s sixth-best coverage grade to his elite run-defense grade, forcing an incompletion on 9.4% of his targeted passes.
Breakout Player/Secret Superstar
T Taylor Moton – 82.6
On an offensive line void of stars after Andrew Norwell’s departure last offseason, Moton came on strong in his sophomore season, never allowing more than four pressures in a single game and finishing with the league’s 12th-best pass-blocking grade.
WR D.J. Moore – 72.6
Among rookie wide receivers, Moore finished with the league’s highest overall and receiving grade, proving to be a mismatch against cornerbacks after the catch, as his 17 missed tackles forced paced all rookie receivers and were good enough for second in the NFL.
The Panthers have the star players to build around but as it proved in 2018, they need more than just a quarterback dependent on the short-passing attack and a linebacker who can stop the run to be real contenders in 2019.