No. 4: Carolina Panthers
As noted on the previous slide, the Panthers will have a new quarterback under center for the first time since 2011. In Matt Rhule’s first major move of his Carolina tenure, he opted to bring in Teddy Bridgewater over keeping an oft-injured Cam Newton. The move upset countless fans, but in all honesty, the time was probably right for a change. Newton hadn’t been healthy in nearly two years and simply wasn’t nearly as effective following the mid-way point of the 2018 campaign.
With that being said though, Bridgewater still has some big shoes to fill–both on the field and in the community. On the field, the former Saint has plenty of talent to be successful in Carolina. His football intelligence along with accuracy and a quick release makes him a perfect fit in new offensive coordinator Joe Brady’s system, and it also helps that the two have a history together. Bridgewater played exceptionally well as a starter in New Orleans last year, going 5-0 while completing 70% of his passes for 1,205 yards with nine touchdowns and just two interceptions.
The only question mark surrounding the new Panthers starter is how his body will hold up under a full 16-game slate. He suffered a catastrophic knee injury back in 2016 and has made a successful comeback up to this point, despite not playing more than nine games in any season since. Bridgewater reportedly had at least one team interested in giving him a starting job prior to last season but elected instead to wait for a better opportunity. At the very worst Bridgewater will be nothing worse than a semi-aggressive game manager while with the Panthers. The hope though, is that he can return to his pre-injury Pro Bowl form.
Currently, the Panthers have only PJ Walker and Will Grier behind Bridgewater on the depth chart. Carolina signed Walker to a two-year deal at the end of March after he dominated the now-defunct XFL this spring, taking home nearly every passing title as well as the league’s MVP award. Walker was the starting quarterback during all four years of Rhule’s head-coaching career at Temple. Walker will compete with Grier, last year’s third-round pick, to be the primary backup. Grier played in two games last season, both losses, where he struggled; however, considering the circumstances he was put into, as well as his talent, many still believe in his potential.
At the end of the day, the Panthers’ overall lack of proven experience at this position makes it tough to climb ahead of any of the other QB rooms within the division. The potential is certainly there, but only Bridgewater has significant starting experience, and even he has started just six games since the end of 2015. Walker has never been on an active NFL roster, and Grier hasn’t yet played six full quarters in the NFL.