Last season, the Carolina Panthers won the NFC South for the second year in a row. It wasn’t a dominating performance though as they won the division with a record of 7-8-1. There is plenty of room for improvement entering 2015 as the team hopes to earn their third consecutive division title.
The free agents GM Dave Gettleman brought in this offseason will help but it is the rookies who could have the biggest impact. The performance by one player in particular will be key for the Carolina Panthers in 2015. A player’s potential impact is based on talent and opportunity (playing time).
Will Shaq Thompson make this defense better? Probably. Would they still be a Top 10 defense without him? Most likely.
Meanwhile, wide receiver Devin Funchess has the talent to be a number two wide receiver and has shown early this offseason an ability to pick up the playbook quickly.
The Panthers passing attack was in the bottom half of the league in completions, passing yards and touchdowns due in large part to a lack of weapons. Outside of Greg Olsen and Kelvin Benjamin, there weren’t many options in the passing game that put fear in opposing defenses.
These two players accounted for 48 percent of the team’s receptions (157), 49 percent of the team’s targets (268), 52 percent of the receiving yards (2,016) and 65 percent of the team’s total receiving touchdowns (15).
Devin Funchess is the type of wide receiver who should take the defensive focus off of Olsen and Benjamin and keep the opposition more honest.
At 6’4” and 232 pounds, Funchess is a match-up nightmare. He has the size to overpower cornerbacks and the speed to separate from linebackers.
During OTAs and minicamp, the coaching staff moved Funchess around in formations. This may not be a regular thing once the season rolls around but if the coaching staff continues to do this, they should be able to exploit mismatches even more.
The past few seasons the Panthers have gotten tremendous production from their rookie classes. Last season, the Panthers had upwards of seven rookies in their lineup towards the end of the season.
The number may not be that high this year but the impact could be equal. The added weapon of Funchess to this offense will only help keep defenses off balance and help the passing game be more productive in 2015.
Brandon Croce is the Lead Publisher for PantherInsider.com. You can find him on Twitter @BrandonCroce.