The Deadspin 2020 NFL Previews, NFC South: All Eyes on Tompa Bay & Brees’ Last Stand


Teddy Bridgewater
Photo: Getty

COVID Response: In March, David Tepper, the Panthers owner, donated $2.56 million to COVID response in the Charlotte area. LB Jordan Mack and DE Christian Miller opted out.

Outside the lines: After Ken Gill, CEO of CPI Security, replied to an email chain from a nonprofit group called Queen City Unity — asking for action in response to the killings of Black people by police: “Please spend your time in a more productive way. A better use of time would be to focus on the Black-on-Black crime and senseless killing of our young men by other young men. Have a great day, Ken Gill.” The Panthers instantly cut ties with the company. CPI was a major sponsor for the team for several years, including commercials featuring star running back Christian McCaffrey and former linebacker Luke Kuechly.

The Panthers’ Player Impact Committee was formed this summer to focus on two areas of community engagement: voter registration and improving police-community relations.

“I really want the people to know that we as athletes, we as Panthers, as professional athletes, that we are with you,” Andre Smith, linebacker and one of the players on the committee, told The Charlotte Observer. “I think a lot of celebrities as we’ve seen, some celebrities get their money and maybe forget a little bit. And, you know, lose an understanding of the fight that we’re fighting, but I want them to know that as a professional athlete me, Andre Smith, I completely understand the situation, I’m aware, and that I’m right there along with you, fighting the good fight, and that I’m not afraid to use my voice or my platform to speak out.”

Oh, he’s here now? Matt Rhule controversially steps into his first head coaching role with the Panthers after two successful seasons at Baylor. Rhule’s only stint in the NFL was as an offensive line coach for the Giants in 2012. The Panthers signed Teddy Bridgewater, who was backing up Drew Brees in New Orleans, this offseason to run the offense. Left tackle Russell Okung joins the team from the L.A. Chargers and right guard John Miller from the Bengals to shore up the line.

Where’d he go? After nine seasons as Mr. Panther, Cam Newton was cut by the team in March. He sighed a 1-year, $1.05 million deal with New England in July. Five-time All-Pro Linebacker Luke Kuechly retired this offseason. Kicker Graham Gano is now on the Giants.

Will there be fans in the stands? Until further notice, no.

What To Expect: With Rhule in his first season, we can expect some road bumps early on. Bridgewater can use several tools in advancing the ball upfield like wide receivers D.J. Moore, Robby Anderson, and McCaffrey. On defense, the Panthers are a toss-up. Their defense lost all but one defensive lineman from last season. And with Eric Reid and James Bradley not returning to the secondary, the team has significant shoes to fill.

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