CAROLINA PANTHERS (7-9)
OPEN CAMP: July 25, Spartanburg, South Carolina
LAST YEAR: After 6-2 start, Carolina's season quickly spiraled out of control after 52-21 loss at Pittsburgh in nationally televised Thursday night game. It was start of seven-game slide that coincided with QB Cam Newton's right shoulder problems. 2015 league MVP could barely throw ball more than 20 yards downfield by end of season, and was held out of final two games before undergoing surgery. Offense became rather predictable down stretch with Newton unable to stretch field.
IMPORTANT ADDITIONS: DT Gerald McCoy, C Matt Paradis, DE Bruce Irvin, OLB Brian Burns, OT Greg Little, QB Will Grier, WRs Aldrick Robinson and Chris Hogan.
IMPORTANT LOSSES: DEs Julius Peppers and Wes Horton, C Ryan Kalil, LBs Thomas Davis and Ben Jacobs, WR Devin Funchess, CB Captain Munnerlyn, S Mike Adams, OL Amini Silatolu, LTs Chris Clark and LT Matt Kalil.
CAMP NEEDS: Carolina needs to find cohesiveness on offensive line with rookie LT Greg Little expected to protect Newton's blindside and veteran free agent C Matt Paradis replacing retired Ryan Kalil. Carolina will look to first-round draft pick OLB Brian Burns and veteran free agent DT Gerald McCoy to help develop pass rush. Carolina also needs to find reliable safety to pair with Eric Reid.
EXPECTATIONS: Panthers parted with number of long-time veterans, but still have plenty experience and lots of speedy, young talent led by RB Christian McCaffrey, one of game's top offensive weapons. Newton has two big-time playmakers in WRs D.J. Moore and Curtis Samuel, and TE Greg Olsen looks to overcome foot injuries that have limited productivity in last two seasons. Aside from Newton's arm strength, biggest question marks are on defense. Coach Ron Rivera will resume play-calling duties on defense, and plans to work in some 3-4 looks to go along with team's traditional base 4-3 front. Rivera believes flexibility is needed against today's offenses.
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