Draft thanks to their 7-9 record and third place finish in the NFC South in 2018. There are a lot of holes on the roster that have to be filled Womens Devin Funchess Jersey , and because there probably aren’t enough draft picks available to fill them the Panthers will have to be smart with their approach to the draft. Let’s take a look at the five position groups the Panthers need to address, in no particular order.Defensive endThe Panthers have six defensive ends currently on the roster, but four of them will be free agents when the league year starts in March: Julius Peppers, Efe Obada (ERFA), Bryan Cox Jr. (ERFA) and Wes Horton. The two remaining are Marquis Haynes and Mario Addison. That’s not a sufficient group of pass rushers for any team, so the Panthers will definitely have to address this need somehow. Fortunately, there are some really good defensive ends in this year’s draft class. Will any of the good ones be available by the time the No. 16 pick rolls around? We can only hope.Offensive tackleJust like defensive end, the Panthers have six players listed at offensive tackle on their current roster, but again, three of them are set to hit free agency in March: Daryl Williams, Chris Clark and Marshall Newhouse. The only ones left are Taylor Moton, Matt Kalil and Isaiah Battle. Moton is solid, but Kalil’s health is a question (but he hopes to ‘give it another go’ in 2019) and Battle has never played a regular season NFL snap in the four years he’s bounced around various practice squads across the league.To put it lightly, the Panthers’ offensive tackle situation is dire. The Panthers may not be able to afford to re-sign Williams (unless his season-ending injury substantially drives down his market value) and we saw what a left tackle rotation of Chris Clark and Marshall Newhouse can do to a franchise quarterback’s long-term health. I don’t know if the Panthers can fix this problem with a first round draft pick because I don’t know if a cornerstone left tackle will fall to No. 16 overall. This might be a position that has to be addressed in free agency, but if a quality left tackle miraculously falls into the Panthers’ lap during the draft, it should take Marty Hurney approximately 2.7 seconds to hand his card in at the podium.SafetyThe Panthers have eight players listed at safety on their roster right now. There are two problems with that number, though. Four of them are scheduled to hit free agency: Mike Adams, Eric Reid Womens James Bradberry Jersey , Colin Jones and Damian Parms (ERFA). Of the four safeties left, two of them are not free safeties (Da’Norris Searcy, Rashaan Gaulden) and two of them are virtually unknown quantities (Kai Nacua, Cole Luke). The Panthers could address this problem in the draft. Dan Kadar of Mocking the Draft has the Panthers doing that with their No. 16 overall pick by taking Deionte Thompson from Alabama. Depending on how the draft board looks that might not be the biggest mistake the Panthers could make in the draft, but it might be better to try and find a free safety in free agency instead. (Note: There aren’t a lot of options here, to be honest. It’s a matter of ‘Would you rather have mediocrity at safety or mediocrity at defensive end/offensive tackle?’ and that’s really not a difficult question to answer.)Running backBefore you get mad, hear me out. The Panthers rely on Christian McCaffrey more than they should. Yes, he’s awesome, but you shouldn’t dedicate 95% of your snaps to one player (other than the quarterback because you kinda have to do that). The Panthers need at least one running back to pair with McCaffrey. They fixed this problem last offseason by signing C.J. Anderson to a one-year ‘prove it’ deal, but then decided they didn’t need his services any longer and let him go. As of today, there are six running backs on the roster other than McCaffrey: Kenjon Barner, Cameron Artis-Payne, Fozzy Whittaker, Reggie Bonnafon, Travaris Cadet and Elijah Hood. Of those six, five of them are set to hit free agency. Bonnafon is the only one left. (Hood is an ERFA so he could return.) I’m not sure the Panthers will allocate cap space to bring any of those five guys back when they could throw a fourth or fifth round pick at a running back and get the same amount of production, but somehow they need to find someone to spell McCaffrey. Of course, they could always just roll with Bonnafon and Hood if they wanted to save their draft picks for other needs Youth DJ Moore Jersey , but I don’t know if that’s the best idea.QuarterbackAgain, let me explain before you bring out the pitchforks. Cam Newton is the franchise quarterback and that’s not changing any time soon. But, let’s be honest: His shoulder isn’t right. He hasn’t been the same since T.J. Watt speared him in Week 10. The Panthers must have a backup plan in case Newton’s shoulder isn’t ready for 2019. They went with a rotation of Taylor Heinicke, Kyle Allen and Garrett Gilbert over the last two weeks of the season, but that’s not going to be good enough for the long term. Allen is currently the only backup quarterback who is a) healthy, and b) on the roster. The Panthers should look for value picks in the draft to find a backup quarterback, or they should sign a quality veteran to run the offense in case Cam isn’t ready to go. I’m sure this will go over like a fart in a spacesuit, but there’s a certain quarterback out there right now who would be a perfect short-term replacement for Cam, but whether or not the Panthers would be willing to make that move is up in the air.If you’re still reading this, congrats. You have dedication! Now that you’ve come this far, do me one more favor—tell me which need you think is the most important, and how the Panthers should address that need. Should they use the No. 16 overall pick to fill the need, or should they sign a free agent? Who should they draft and/or sign? I want to know that you think.Panthers defense kicks off the season against a mediocre Cowboys offense After months and months of not having meaningful football to watch, we finally have meaningful football to watch. The Carolina Panthers will kick off their 2018 regular season at 4:25 eastern on Sunday September 9th with a new-look cast of coordinators. One of those new coordinators is Eric Washington, who was promoted to the role after cutting his teeth as the Panthers defensive line coach for seven seasons. It’s hard to make judgments based on the preseason, but the general feeling is that Washington’s approach will more resemble Sean McDermott than Steve Wilkes, letting the front 4 generate pressure while the back 7 hunt for turnovers. Washington’s first test as a defensive coordinator comes against a mediocre Cowboys offense that’s largely the same as last year’s version. They made two notable changes, replacing Dez Bryant with Allen Hurns/Michael Gallup and drafting guard Connor Williams in the second round of the draft. It’s unlikely that either of those changes are going to do much to boost the Cowboys offense.Last year’s Cowboys ranked 14th in both total yards and total points per game Youth Trai Turner Jersey , with the offense strongly buoyed by the run game. Dallas averaged 4.5 yards per carry, third in the league, even with superstar running back Ezekiel Elliot absent for 6 games. They boast one of the league’s strongest offensive lines, so they can plug almost anyone into the backfield and run off over 4 yards per carry. That brings us to our keys to Sunday’s game:Stop the run. This isn’t rocket science. Every coach says this before every game regardless of the opponent, and those of you who have read my offseason pieces know I’m a big proponent of the importance of the run game, so it should come as no surprise that this is key number one. Dallas ran the ball on 61% of their first down plays (and you thought the Panthers were bad), the most in the league. As long as the defense doesn’t let Elliot gash them for chunks of yardage, Dallas will spend a lot of time behind the sticks. Generate interior pressure against their backup center. Dallas’ All Pro center Travis Frederick is out for at least the next few weeks as he deals with Guillain–Barr茅 syndrome, so Joe Looney will get the start at center. He’s flanked to his right by rookie Connor Williams, which makes this the most obvious point of weakness in the otherwise stout Cowboys offensive line. Defensive tackle is the Panthers strongest position along their front line, so Kawaan Short, Dontari Poe, and Vernon Butler will all need to be disruptive against that duo. Stifle the Cowboys offense early in drives. The Panthers have often employed the ‘bend but don’t break’ style of defense under Ron Rivera. It works fine against most opponents, but it would behoove the Panthers to be more aggressive defensively and keep Dallas away from the red zone. They were the NFL’s 7th best team in terms of red zone touchdown percentage and ranked 5th in Sharp’s Offensive Success in the red zone in 2017. Meanwhile they only completed 58 passes for 15 yards or more, last in the NFL. The Cowboys aren’t a big play team, so the Panthers should put the clamps on the Cowboys offense before they can get into scoring range. The Panthers get to open their season on the national stage against a Cowboys team whose offensive strengths and weaknesses mirror those of the Panthers defense. If the Panthers can limit Ezekiel Elliot, they have a very good chance of starting the season 1-0.