8 Most Important Panthers Players In 2020

Jason Huber
June 29, 2020 - 2:48 pm

It's been a different kind of offseason for the NFL with no minicamps, rookie camps or in-person meetings due to the coronavirus, but as of now, the NFL's 2020 season is still set to take place with Training Camp expected to be at the end of July. 

The Carolina Panthers will enter the season looking a lot different. 

A new head coach and coaching staff, a new starting quarterback and the losses of many team staples throughout the last decade have experts and fans believing this will be a rough year for the Panthers. 

With so many new roster additions and losses, who are the most important players in Carolina for the upcoming season? Here's a look.

1. Christian McCaffrey

The face of the franchise received a record contract extension for a running back this offseason and will be looked upon for the next few years as the team's top player. 

McCaffrey is coming off a 1,000-yard rushing and receiving season and has only gotten better through his first three years in the league. 

Running backs who receive big contracts don't have a great track record of continuing their strong production but McCaffrey isn't your normal running back with the ability to run and receive. 

The Panthers offense goes as far as McCaffrey takes them. 

Photo by Sean Gardner/Getty Images
Photo by Sean Gardner/Getty Images
2. Teddy Bridgewater 

Bridgewater has big shoes to fill with the departure of Cam Newton at quarterback. 

New head coach Matt Rhule and offensive coordinator Joe Brady have a lot of confidence in Bridgewater but it'll have to show on the field.

Bridgewater has never been on a team with the lack of talent surrounding him like Carolina will have and his play will determine how good or bad the team will be. 

Photo by Abbie Parr/Getty Images
Photo by Abbie Parr/Getty Images
3. Kawann Short

Short missed the majority of the 2019 season due to a torn rotator cuff in Week 2, but he's healthy and will be one of the longest-tenured players on defense in 2020. 

Short is a two-time Pro Bowler, most recently in 2018 and with the Panthers set to return to a 4-3 defense, Short's play will be pivotal in how good Carolina's front-line performs. 

Photo by Grant Halverson/Getty Images
Photo by Grant Halverson/Getty Images
4. Shaq Thompson

Thompson will have to step up as the team's best linebacker with Luke Kuechly no longer around and will have even more pressure after signing a contract extension towards the end of last season.

It took a few years, but Thompson finally had a breakout season in 2019, totaling 109 combined tackles and 3.0 sacks.

Thompson is expected to continue starting at will linebacker with Tahir Whitehead holding down the middle and Jermaine Carter at sam. 

Thompson will be looked upon as a defensive leader. 

Photo by Ralph Freso/Getty Images
Photo by Ralph Freso/Getty Images
5. Donte Jackson

Jackson is entering a pivotal year after showing plenty of promise but also many struggles in his first two years. 

Carolina's secondary is the weakest and least experienced position group on their defense and Jackson's play will be a huge factor in how they bounced back.

James Bradberry departed for New York, leaving Jackson as the No. 1 cornerback.

Eli Apple could take that role but Jackson has much more to prove. 

Photo by Grant Halverson/Getty Images
Photo by Grant Halverson/Getty Images
6. D.J. Moore

Moore had a breakout sophomore year in 2019 but still has yet to put together the touchdown numbers. 

The Panthers added Robby Anderson to their receiving core for more of a deep threat and Curtis Samuel is entering a contract year.

Moore will still be looked upon as the No. 1 receiver, though and his play will be a big factor in how the Panthers receiving offense performs. 

Photo by Sean Gardner/Getty Images
Photo by Sean Gardner/Getty Images
7. Brian Burns

Burns had a strong start to his rookie year last season but a freak hand injury caused him to see limited playing time the rest of the way in a 3-4 defense that didn't fit him as well. 

New defensive coordinator Phil Snow has said he plans to use Burns as an every-down player and expects a big year out of him.

Burns will be able to play his normal defensive end position instead of switching to linebacker as Carolina returns to a 4-3 defense and if Burns lives up to his first-round potential, the Panthers defense will be in good hands. 

Photo by Jacob Kupferman/Getty Images
Photo by Jacob Kupferman/Getty Images
8. Matt Paradis 

Paradis was signed to a big three-year contract last offseason to replace long-time center Ryan Kalil, and his first year in Carolina did not go well. 

Paradis had a career-low 63.5 grade from Pro Football Focus, one of the worst for all centers last year.

The Panthers let the NFL in sacks allowed as well. 

If Paradis, the fourth-highest paid player on the team, struggles again, the Panthers will have even more offensive line problems. 

Photo by Jacob Kupferman/Getty Images
Photo by Jacob Kupferman/Getty Images

Next three: Derrick Brown, Eli Apple, Tahir Whitehead 

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