2022 Carolina Panthers Preview: Roster Moves, Depth Chart, Schedule, Storylines and More

2022 Carolina Panthers Preview: Roster Moves, Depth Chart, Schedule, Storylines and More

This article is part of our Team Previews series.

Carolina Panthers

The Panthers have endured bad results and bad luck in coach Matt Rhule's first two years. While some of their hardships have been self-imposed, avoiding injuries to key players, especially Christian McCaffrey, would give Rhule a fairer chance at competing and ultimately keeping his job.

2022 Offseason Moves – Carolina Panthers

Key Acquisitions

His arrival ensures a QB battle will take place ahead of the campaign.

Local bruiser brought on to help with protection issues from years past.

After a star season, his path to snaps is blocked by Mayfield and Sam Darnold.

Signed as insurance after filling in for an injured Derrick Henry in 2021.

Seventh-year pro comes aboard to push for looks in the receiving corps.

Former splash signing totaled 180 tackles over the past two seasons.

Key Departures

Franchise icon is back on the market after emergency return last season.

Paced the team in sacks in his lone campaign in Carolina.

The 2018 fifth-rounder departs after improving tackle count each year.

Carolina Panthers 2022 Coaching Staff

Head Coach: Matt Rhule (Year 3)

Offensive Coordinator: Ben McAdoo (Year 1) – Air Coryell scheme

Defensive Coordinator: Phil Snow (Year 3) – 4-3 scheme

Stats to Know for the Carolina Panthers

2022 Vegas Projected Wins: 6.5 (T-25th)

2021 Record: 5-12

2021 Points Scored: 304 (29th)

2021 Points Allowed: 404 (21st)

2021 Point Differential: -100 (26th)

2021 Run-Play Rate: 41.1 percent (17th)

2021 Offensive Snaps: 1,106 (10th)

2021 PFF O-Line Ranking: No. 31

Full 2021 Team Stats

2022 Carolina Panthers Depth Chart

QB: Baker Mayfield / Sam Darnold / Matt Corral

RB: Christian McCaffrey / Chuba Hubbard / D'Onta Foreman

WR1: DJ Moore / Andre Roberts

WR2: Robbie Anderson / Rashard Higgins

WR3: Terrace Marshall / Brandon Zylstra / Shi Smith / Keith Kirkwood

TE: Tommy Tremble / Ian Thomas

O-Line: LT Ikem Ekwonu / LG Pat Elflein / C Bradley Bozeman / RG Austin Corbett / RT Taylor Moton (RotoWire Rank: No. 24)

Kicker: Zane Gonzalez

Full 2022 Depth Chart

2022 Carolina Panthers Schedule

WeekDateOpponentKickoff (ET)
1Sep 11Cleveland Browns1:00 PM
2Sep 18@ New York Giants1:00 PM
3Sep 25New Orleans Saints1:00 PM
4Oct 2Arizona Cardinals4:05 PM
5Oct 9San Francisco 49ers4:05 PM
6Oct 16@ Los Angeles Rams4:05 PM
7Oct 23Tampa Bay Buccaneers1:00 PM
8Oct 30@ Atlanta Falcons1:00 PM
9Nov 6@ Cincinnati Bengals1:00 PM
10Nov 10Atlanta Falcons8:15 PM
11Nov 20@ Baltimore Ravens1:00 PM
12Nov 27Denver Broncos1:00 PM
14Dec 11@ Seattle Seahawks4:25 PM
15Dec 18Pittsburgh Steelers1:00 PM
16Dec 24Detroit Lions1:00 PM
17Jan 1@ Tampa Bay Buccaneers1:00 PM
18TBD@ New Orleans SaintsTBD

Carolina Panthers Storylines for 2022

Who Will Lead the Offense?

In its second season under coordinator Joe Brady, the Panthers offense anticipated building on 2020 while benefiting from a change at quarterback. Sam Darnold, the third overall pick in the 2018 Draft, was acquired last April to lead the unit, offering him a fresh start following tough times with the Jets.

While the union started off well, with Carolina going 3-1 and Darnold combining for 10 touchdowns versus four turnovers, things began to fall apart. He turned it over nine times in his next five appearances before missing five games with a shoulder injury. Then, during Darnold's absence, Brady was fired due to continued underwhelming results.

Although new, more experienced coordinator Ben McAdoo will try to right the ship this season, Darnold's play remains a concern. The Panthers pursued quarterbacks on the trade market early this offseason before drafting signal-caller Matt Corral in the third round.

Then, the Baker Mayfield saga in Cleveland finally reached its conclusion when Carolina landed him via trade on July 6. The competition between Darnold and Mayfield is expected to be an even one, and whoever ends up leading the unit will work with a healthy Christian McCaffrey and a pair of talented wideouts in DJ Moore and Robbie Anderson. However, the O-line may have three new starters, leaving more questions than answers for this offense heading into 2022.

McCaffrey Seeking To Shake Injuries

Since becoming the highest-paid running back in NFL history in April 2020, Christian McCaffrey has played just 10 of 33 possible regular-season games. Ankle, shoulder and thigh injuries limited him to only three appearances in 2020, before he strained his hamstring Week 3 last year. After five weeks on the shelf, McCaffrey subsequently played three more times prior to sustaining a season-ending ankle issue Week 12. Ultimately, he averaged 142 yards from scrimmage in the five games he completed, but his unavailability torpedoed the Panthers' offensive plans for a second straight year.

Heading into his age-26 campaign, a healthy McCaffrey so far has participated in the offseason program. He's undoubtedly one of the league's most dynamic playmakers when on the field, but in second-year pro Chuba Hubbard and free-agent pickup D'Onta Foreman, a pair of capable alternatives are ready should McCaffrey again go down.

Hubbard was productive, if not efficient, in 10 starts with McCaffrey out last season, while the big-bodied Foreman churned out 76.6 yards per game across nine outings for the Titans when Derrick Henry was sidelined. The Panthers will hope their services won't be required too much, but if McCaffrey doesn't hold up, the team appears to be more prepared than in previous seasons.

Shoring Up the Defense

Carolina's Phil Snow-coordinated defense dramatically improved from a yardage standpoint in Year 2 last season, finishing second in the NFL at 305.9 yards allowed per game. Despite that jump from 18th-ranked (360.1) in 2020, the unit struggled to prevent opponents from scoring, as evidenced by it allowing 23.8 points per game (21st).

While only four teams had fewer takeaways than the Panthers, their offensive struggles at times hurt the defense. Along with ranking third to last in yards and fourth to last in points scored per game, the offense committed more turnovers (29) than all but one team, regularly putting the defense in tough positions.

As Snow further strives to sharpen his side of the ball this coming season, he'll again lean on key playmakers Jeremy Chinn, Brian Burns and Shaq Thompson. The loss of double-digit sack artist Haason Reddick leaves a void in the pass rush, but Carolina signed veterans Cory Littleton, Damien Wilson and Matt Ioannidis to help in the front seven.

The team also welcomes back 2021 first-rounder Jaycee Horn, who looked the part of an eighth overall pick prior to suffering three fractures in his foot Week 3. With talented pillars in the defense, Snow will count on increased familiarity on his side of the ball and better support from the offense to complete the overall picture.

Fantasy Football Stock Watch

⬆️  Rising: RB Chuba Hubbard

Given Christian McCaffrey's recent health concerns, Hubbard is an attractive backup plan. Following 786 total yards and six scores as a rookie, Hubbard has a chance to spell McCaffrey, even when the latter is available.

⬇️  Falling: QB Sam Darnold

Poor decision-making has resulted in consistent issues with turnovers (and losses) through Darnold's four campaigns. Now, he'll have to contend with Baker Mayfield for the No. 1 job, which could dictate Darnold's future as a starter.

😴  Sleeper: WR Rashard Higgins

The change in scenery for Higgins has an added dose of familiarity following the Mayfield trade. Higgins put together his two best seasons as a pro in four years working with the quarterback in Cleveland.

🌟  Pivotal Player: Christian McCaffrey

One of just three players in NFL history to finish with 1,000 yards rushing and receiving in the same season, McCaffrey has spent more time on the sideline than the field since accomplishing that feat. His game-changing upside offers the Panthers and their offense an obvious pathway to improvement, but only if he can remain healthy.

Carolina Panthers Injury Report

RB Christian McCaffrey

As the face of the Panthers' franchise, McCaffrey has missed 23 games over the past two seasons. Last year, hamstring and ankle injuries limited him to just seven appearances. However, after participating in Carolina's offseason program and looking like himself during OTAs, the tailback approaches the upcoming campaign fully healthy. To preserve him for the long haul, the Panthers are expected to restrict McCaffrey's exposure during the preseason and take a different approach to his practice schedule during the regular season.

QB Baker Mayfield

Mayfield partially tore the labrum in his left, non-throwing shoulder Week 2 of last season, but he still managed to play 14 games. He missed the Browns' season finale after opting for surgery, and that proved to be his last contest with the team. After rehabbing this offseason, Mayfield was traded to the Panthers, for whom he'll go against Sam Darnold to serve as the starting quarterback. With Mayfield saying he's moved past his shoulder issue, he's expected to be full go for the upcoming battle with Darnold ahead of this season.

CB Jaycee Horn

The eighth overall pick in last year's draft, Horn played just three games before breaking his foot. That injury ultimately proved to be season-ending, but Horn was fully cleared to participate in OTAs this spring. At 6-1, 205, he not only boasts size and physicality, he also flashed ball skills in his brief rookie campaign, snagging an interception Week 2. Despite his lack of experience, Horn's talent should see him top the Panthers' depth chart at cornerback and have ample opportunities to make plays.

Training Camp Battle 2022 – Carolina Panthers

The Panthers had three different quarterbacks start last season and approach the upcoming campaign still unsure of who their signal-caller will be for this year's opener. However, in trading for Baker Mayfield, the team acquired the No. 1 overall pick in 2018 to compete with incumbent Sam Darnold, whom they brought in last summer and was taken two picks after Mayfield in the same draft.

Although both have been inconsistent through four seasons, Mayfield has been more serviceable than Darnold, who floundered with 14 total touchdowns versus 17 turnovers in 12 games last year. While both will have to adjust to new coordinator Ben McAdoo's scheme, it'll be interesting to see how Mayfield and Darnold split the reps during training camp and the preseason.

Behind Mayfield and Darnold, Ole Miss quarterback Matt Corral is next up on the depth chart after Carolina moved up in the third round of this year's draft to gain his services. Corral will be a developmental option for the future while both Mayfield and Darnold enter the final year of their rookie contracts.

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Nick Pitner
Nick Pitner writes about fantasy sports for RotoWire. He supports Arsenal FC, the Green Bay Packers and the New York Knicks, while specializing in those respective sports in his coverage for the site.
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