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49ers 2019 opponent preview: Carolina Panthers

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It’s time to start scouting the 49ers opponents for 2019. Today it’s the Carolina Panthers

The Panthers were the team to introduce Kyle Shanahan to head coaching back in 2017 (well in the regular season anyways). It wasn’t a good game and not only was the first to showcase a San Francisco 49ers team at the very foundation of a rebuild, but also the first to show Brian Hoyer is a bad quarterback by extension.

The Panthers themselves have found themselves in a frequent, but not consistent playoff hunt, which shows how competitive the NFC South is. They missed the postseason last year, with a 7-9 record but it was less on a bad team and more on quarterback Cam Newton getting himself injured. The biggest thing to come out of 2018 was the rise of Christian McCaffrey who had 1,098 rushing yards and 867 receiving yards.

This guy almost got 2,000 yards of total offense. Good lord. Yes, Saquon Barkley passed 2K, but that’s still impressive. The bad part? Those 867 receiving yards make McCaffrey the pass-catcher on the team.

With McCaffrey was the only consistent threat they have, the Panthers rank in the middle of the pack in many offensive categories. While they are 10th in total yards, They were 16th in passing yards with 3,836. The same goes for points both from the running game and passing game.

The brightest spot of the offense was Newton, who was the most accurate he’s been his entire career with a 67.9 completion percentage. 24 touchdowns to 13 interceptions. Not bad at all. Newton didn’t play a full season and had shoulder surgery putting his status for Week 1 in question.

The defense was still stout. They were 11th in points against (327), seventh in total yards ( 5,074), and had the third-least amount of offensive plays ran against them. The defense knows how to get off the field. These aren’t top-10 overall numbers but they are darn close.

While the offense is on the back-half, things are again made salvageable with a decent defense. If the Panthers can get their offensive production to compliment Christian McCaffrey and Cam Newton, they can be downright scary.

Draft picks

Round 1: Brian Burns (OLB)
Round 2: Greg Little (OT)
Round 3: Will Grier (QB)
Round 4: Christian Miller (OLB)
Round 5: Jordan Scarlett (RB)
Round 6: Dennis Daley (OT)
Round 7: Terry Godwin (Georgia)

Notable free agent acquisitions

Matt Paradis (C)
Gerald McCoy (DT)
Bruce Irvin (DE)
Chris Hogan (WR)

The first pick was Brian Burns, a decent piece that needs to gain some weight. You pair him with Bruce Irvin however and the pair seems quite intriguing.

From there the whole draft has me scratching my head. Greg Little seems like a bit of a reach. Will Grier makes sense given Cam Newton’s shoulder, but they could have signed a quarterback or traded with a certain team in the Bay Area that has two backup quarterbacks with experience in the NFL. Why they burned a third rounder on a backup quarterback is a bit strange. Same with Jordan Scarlett in the fifth when you have a durable Christian McCaffrey. I could get behind running back, I suppose, just not Scarlett.

On the free agency side, Gerald McCoy and Bruce Irvin will help that defense continue to be solid. Is Chris Hogan an improvement from Devin Funchess? Well, Funchess got $10 million for one year with the Indianapolis Colts while Hogan got a fraction of that for coming to Carolina. That’s up to you.

When you look at this draft, nothing after Burns stands out. The free agent acquisitions also seem more of necessity than anything splashy. Do you think Carolina is better or worse after all this?

The matchup

Not sure what to say on this one. A lot of this could be mental as well as physical. By mental I mean the Panthers are in the same division as the Atlanta Falcons and the New Orleans Saints. If one or two of those two teams are in the thick of things, that could mean the Panthers are out of it and playing for something else.

From a talent perspective, there’s a lot to look out for. If Newton plays, it’s a good test for the 49ers pass rush since he’s not the easiest quarterback to take down. If the offensive line can hold up against those defensive line additions, consider it the next step. Heck, if the offense can be productive against that defense it’s a victory. The problem with all of this is, besides McCaffrey, there isn’t much for Newton to throw to in the way of targets. Sure there’s Greg Olsen, but around this time (Week 8) is when he finds himself injured, so it’s hard to count on him.

The 49ers are playing at home and that’s quite the trip for the Panthers. The Panthers might be coming off a bye, but their last game will also have been played in London against division rival the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. 49ers have a lot of advantage in this matchup. They should put this one away towards the end of the fourth quarter.

Then again, this video could say otherwise.