Panthers Special Teams Wrap Up the Previews
As a fitting end to our position previews, we are wrapping things up with a breakdown of the special teams unit as the panthers report to training camp today.
Much like the defense, the groups are one of the few areas that don’t need a vast amount of improvement but need a few tweaks to bring out the group’s full potential.
The team is pretty set at the kicker and punter positions with Graham Gano, who locked up the record for the longest game-winning field goal in NFL history last season, and Michael Palardy, so most of this will be focused on returners for the team, let get to it.
Gano and Palardy Are A Solid Kicker-Punter Tandem
The two main kickers on the roster are the main reason why the Panthers’ special teams unit has been so solid over the last couple of seasons.
Palardy has come in and been a decent punter after taking over the spot from Andy Lee in 2017, and this past season he finished just outside the top-10 of average net-yards per punt.
Gano has also been steady as the Panthers kicker, including booting the longest game-winning field goal in NFL History against the Giants.
Gano has only posted one season under 80% of field goals made and that was during the disappointing 2016 season. Gano did suffer an injury last season and missed the final four games, but Chandler Catanzaro was able to fill in and make all of his field goal attempts in those four games.
Who is the Best Option on the Return Team?
Moore was the team’s first round pick just one season ago, but with the team wanting to involve him in the offensive schemes more, they may shift away from leaving him in on kickoff and punt returns.
As for Samuel, his situation is a bit dicier, as he has never been able to complete a full season of football due to injuries. If Samuel gets hurt again, the team may shy away from using him on special teams all together, but the panthers seem to lack the speed from any of their other players to keep him off the return team.
Jarius Wright is the only other player that has the wheels and shifty ability out in space to do anything in the return game. The only problem is that Wright has only returned one punt for his entire career and that was long before the Panthers ever acquired him.
So while it is not the best option, the situation that the Panthers will have to go with is to continue to use Samuel and Moore in the return game.
What Do We See for the Panthers Special Teams in 2019?
Honestly, I think the special teams unit will be excellent in 2019. The Panthers really need Gano to go back to his 2017 form when he had a near perfect field goal made rate with the Panthers.
In addition, Palardy will also need to work on his ability to pin teams inside the 20-yard line. Palardy only pined teams inside the 20-yard line 24 times during the season in 2018, which was middle of the road in the NFL.
Finally, Samuel and Moore both need to stay healthy and consistent, and the Panthers need to find someone on the roster who is capable of returning punts so the two wideouts can focus primarily on growing in the offense.
That wraps up our season long preview for the Panthers, with training camp starting for the team today, we will be breaking down the action for preseason and any transactions so stay tuned.