CHARLOTTE — As we check in on some preseason predictions in the days leading up to the start of training camp, one national writer has put the Panthers in the top echelon in the league, in one key category.
Bill Barnwell of ESPN.com recently ranked the league's best groups of skill-position weapons, to show which teams give their quarterbacks the best chance at success.
He's upfront about saying he's taken the quarterback, his offensive line, and the scheme of the equation, isolating his analysis on the receivers, backs, and tight ends.
As you may be aware, the Panthers have some pretty good players at wide receiver and running back.
His thesis: The Panthers are in the top 25 percent of the league, specifically seventh overall, in terms of offensive weaponry.
His argument: Barnwell actually ranked the Panthers fifth in this category last year, and noted that Christian McCaffrey's return from an injury-filled 2020 lends a bit of mystery to what is otherwise a good group.
"If McCaffrey comes back strong, few teams can boast a big three quite as impressive as that of McCaffrey and wideouts Robby Anderson and DJ Moore."
He also suggested that Moore could be more of a scoring threat this year, using fancy math words: "Positive touchdown regression toward the mean will come for Moore, who has only 10 scores on 208 catches over his first three seasons."
Breaking it down: For the sake of comparison, the Buccaneers top Barnwell's list, and it's hard to argue with the array of weapons Tom Brady has to work with. The Bucs are followed by the Cowboys, Titans, Browns, Vikings, and Chiefs. He also ranked the Saints 19th and the Falcons 23rd in the category; noting the lack of depth in New Orleans behind stars Alvin Kamara and Michael Thomas, and that the Falcons trading Julio Jones leaves them dependent on rookie tight end Kyle Pitts and former Panthers back Mike Davis to help Calvin Ridley make up for the departed star.
The verdict: Yes, McCaffrey, Moore, and Anderson, are in fact good at football. We knew that already. Seeing them juxtaposed with some of the league's best playmakers underscores the insulation the Panthers want to put around Sam Darnold.
Darnold never had this level of talent in his three years with the Jets, and we'll see if that translates to a more consistent performance.
Again, it's an isolated look at skill players, and the development of the offensive line will be as important or more for Darnold's results.
But it also has to be reassuring to him, that he has guys who can make plays for him, even if things get rushed.
Check out select photos of Christian McCaffrey from production day.