Is it time to hop on the Jaycee Horn bandwagon?

Panthers CB Jaycee Horn might’ve seen the wheels come off early in 2021, but that shouldn’t stop you from riding with him in 2022.

The bandwagon for Carolina Panthers cornerback Jaycee Horn hit an early snag and went out of working order this past season. But, according to NFL.com contributing columnist Adam Schein, it’s time to get that baby moving again!

On Wednesday, Schein’s list of “NFL bandwagons to hop on in 2022” hit the web. Among those named—with fellow players, coaches and entire teams alike—was, of course, Horn.

“The Panthers’ top pick was rocking as a rookie until he broke his foot in Week 3, allowing just a 39.6 passer rating against (per PFF) and notching a pick against the division rival Saints,” he writes. “There’s a reason Carolina drafted him eighth overall, ahead of Patrick Surtain II, Micah Parsons, Justin Fields and Mac Jones. This cat is special.”

(Well, he better be. Each of those rookies showed their respective amounts of promise in 2021.)

Anyway, Schein continued:

“While the Panthers’ season came apart after a 3-0 start, the defense did show substantial improvement, finishing second in yards allowed. And Horn is the type of talent who will lift Phil Snow’s unit to even greater heights.”

Horn himself had a few words on Tuesday following the team’s second outing of OTAs. The talented 22-year-old, who is working his way back on the field after his season-ending injury, said he’s ready to become a leader despite feeling like a newbie.

“Kinda,” he said with a smile when asked if he still feels likes a rookie. “‘Cause I ain’t play more than three games last year. But also just knowing that I have to take that next step and bring the new rookies along and just try to help D.J. [Donte Jackson] lead the group.”

Hopefully for Horn and the Panthers, the wheels won’t come off at any time as he does so in 2022.

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Report: Panthers never seriously considered Kenny Pickett, Malik Willis

It seems as though Matt Corral was the Panthers’ No. 1 QB of the 2022 draft class all along.

Quarterback options were, apparently, aplenty for the Carolina Panthers throughout the 2022 NFL draft. But none of those options were the ones that seemed most obvious.

In a recent piece of analysis from The Charlotte Observer, beat reporter Jonathan M. Alexander detailed the Panthers’ relatively extensive survey for a passer during the event’s second night. And for a team that had zero picks entering Friday, they were awfully busy.

That activity kicked off with trade talks for Cleveland’s Baker Mayfield— discussions that were reportedly quite warm until the sides hit a snag. Then, they made a move for a quarterback of their own.

“In a trade, Carolina wanted Cleveland to pay the majority of Mayfield’s $18.9 million guaranteed salary, somewhere in the range of $13-14 million,” Alexander writes. “Those conversations stalled and Carolina traded up to get Corral, who was their favorite quarterback in the 2022 draft class, with the 94th pick. They also strongly considered quarterback Sam Howell, even after they drafted Corral, two sources said.”

Howell and Corral, huh? It really has a ring to it, doesn’t it?

Well, what didn’t have a ring—at least to the franchise’s decision makers—was either of these two titles: Carolina Panthers quarterback Kenny Pickett and Carolina Panthers quarterback Malik Willis.

Alexander went on to note that both Pickett and Willis—the two most popular names at the position who were often linked to Carolina—weren’t exactly viable picks for the Panthers.

“Neither Kenny Pickett nor Malik Willis were under serious consideration,” he added.

One of those decision makers was likely offensive coordinator Ben McAdoo. According to general manager Scott Fitterer, McAdoo was a “big reason” why the Panthers corralled Corral.

“So when it got to this year’s class, we did lean on him and his expertise,” Fitterer said in an interview with WNFZ’s The Clubhouse with Kyle Bailey. “And he really likes Matt Corral’s quick release, his mobility in the pocket, his ability to see the field. So, he had a strong conviction on him and Ben McAdoo’s a big reason why Matt is here.”

He was also probably a big reason why Pickett or Willis isn’t in Carolina, as they passed up on both players—particularly Willis—on multiple opportunities. So, we’ll see if McAdoo’s proven track record of hitting on his quarterback evaluations stays true.

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Top takeaways from Panthers’ opening 2022 OTAs

A handful of Carolina Panthers took the podium following OTAs on Tuesday. Here’s what we learned.

The Carolina Panthers sent quite the lineup to the podium on Tuesday—a group that included head coach Matt Rhule, quarterback Sam Darnold, running back Christian McCaffrey, safety Jeremy Chinn and cornerback Jaycee Horn.

So, with many questions finding their answers following the first two sessions of organized team activities, here’s what stood out most.

Panthers’ Sam Darnold: I can be one of the best QBs in the league

If he can get his confidence and understanding of the game down, Panthers QB Sam Darnold believes he can be one of the best passers in the NFL.

No one has ever accused Carolina Panthers quarterback Sam Darnold of having too much confidence at the NFL level. But that may change.

Following the team’s second outing of voluntary OTAs on Tuesday, both Darnold and head coach Matt Rhule took the podium to address the media. First was Rhule, who says he’s seen a bit more urgency from his starting quarterback as he heads into the final year of his rookie contract.

“I think what Sam’s been through this offseason is hard,” he said. “Your back’s against the wall, everyone’s kind of questioning can you do this or not. You can have confidence in yourself and still say, ‘Hey, I need to work on these things.’ A lot of people get that confused. I think Sam has to have confidence in himself, his ability to work through and grind and develop, and at the same time, identify things he has to improve on. I think we’ve seen a guy that’s showed up, that’s got a little more edge to him, a little more, ‘Hey, I’m going to show people what I can do.'”

Unfortunately for Darnold, he hasn’t shown people much.

Since 2018, when the former third overall pick entered the league, 30 quarterbacks have attempted at least 1,000 passes. Darnold is one of them—and ranks 30th of that bunch in completion percentage (59.8 percent), touchdown rate (3.3 percent), yards per attempt (6.5) and QB rating (76.9)

Needless to say, the soon-to-be 25-year-old is now entering a 2022 campaign where he’ll have to try and prove that he’s the best quarterback on the Panthers roster—especially with third-round pick Matt Corral on the scene. He, however, has some much higher aspirations thanks to that newfound confidence.

“Well, I think for me, it really starts with really just understanding. Understanding the offense, understanding the defense and really goin’ out there with the confidence that I can go out—as long as I know what we’re doing, what the defense is doing. I’m confident that I can be one of the best quarterbacks in the league. So I’m just gonna continue to go out there and do that.”

Oh.

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Panthers release former Cowboys draft pick

On Tuesday, the Panthers waived former Cowboys fifth-round draft pick Joe Jackson.

On Feb. 11, the Carolina Panthers signed defensive end Joe Jackson to a futures deal. 14 weeks later, his future with the team is now non-existent—at least for now.

As announced on Tuesday afternoon, following the second day of voluntary offseason team activities, Jackson was waived by the Panthers. This move leaves Carolina with 89 players on its current roster.

The 6-foot-4, 278-pound defender broke into the NFL as a fifth-round selection of the Dallas Cowboys back in 2019. His work at the University of Miami (Fla.) helped him get there, as he recorded 23.0 sacks and 35.5 tackles for a loss over his three years as a Hurricane.

Jackson went on to play in five games for the Cowboys during his rookie year, chalking up four tackles in 71 defensive snaps. He’d then move on to Cleveland Browns in 2020 and the Kansas City Chiefs in 2021. Between those two stops, he totaled 21 tackles and 1.5 sacks in 15 games.

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Panthers RB Christian McCaffrey likely to be held out of preseason games

For a second straight summer, the Panthers will likely keep RB Christian McCaffrey away from any preseason action.

It’s been all downhill for Carolina Panthers running back Christian McCaffrey since his spectacular 2019 campaign. So now, he and the team are desperately trying to stop the tumble.

Their hopes for a healthier 2022 could see the star rusher sit out this summer’s preseason action entirely—an approach the Panthers took last year. And according to head coach Matt Rhule, he’s willing to do it again.

“I would hold him out of all the preseason games again,” he said following Tuesday’s voluntary OTAs. “I think he’s had enough hits on his body. But I think, just as we move forward, we’re gonna have a little bit of a different strategy practice-wise with him.”

McCaffrey, who became the third player in NFL history to amass a single season of at least 1,000 rushing yards and 1,000 receiving yards in 2019, accounted for 43 percent of Carolina’s offensive yardage—the highest share of all-time. The then 23-year-old rushed for 1,387 yards and 15 touchdowns while reeling in 116 catches for 1,005 yards and four more scores.

Since, the $64 million man has played in just 10 of a possible 33 games between 2020 and 2021 due to a handful of various injuries. Over that time, he’s totaled 667 yards on the ground and 492 yards through the air with eight total touchdowns.

McCaffrey, however, remains focused on paying attention to what his body and what another pretty pertinent running back tells him.

“One thing I’ve done is I’ve reached out to a lot of backs who’ve played, and a guy I’m really appreciative for—Marshall Faulk. Gave me some great advice,” McCaffrey said on Tuesday. Not coincidentally, Faulk—along with McCaffrey and Roger Craig—is also in that aforementioned 1,000-1,000 club.

“Just listening to what he had to say and the different things that he did in the offseason at different points,” he added. “Injuries or not, sometimes you have to change your offseason and your approach.”

Not a bad guy to listen to, huh?

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Panthers WR Robbie Anderson not present at voluntary OTAs

Panthers HC Matt Rhule isn’t concerned about WR Robbie Anderson’s absence at voluntary OTAs because they’re, uh, voluntary.

The Carolina Panthers have held the first set of their voluntary offseason team activities (OTAs) these past two days. And before we get into anything else, please note the “voluntary” part of the term.

Head coach Matt Rhule certainly did, particularly when he was asked of Robbie Anderson’s absence from Tuesday’s session. Rhule, with his No. 2 wideout not on the premises in Charlotte, said he has no concerns.

“No, this is voluntary,” he stated during his post-workout presser. “I actually believe in it being voluntary. I think it’s great. The guys that are here, are here. The one thing about Robbie—you know Robbie’s gonna be in the best shape of his life. He was here for a while. So, not a concern for me.”

Hopefully for Anderson, who is coming off the worst season of his career, he’ll indeed be in the best shape of his life. Fresh off a two-year extension, the sixth-year receiver posted career-lows in receiving yards (519), yards per reception (9.8) and catch rate (48.2 percent).

Nonetheless, with a slight name and number change heading into 2022, the artist formerly known as Robby is as determined as ever to get himself and the team back on track.

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Panthers reportedly open to signing QB Cam Newton for reduced role, salary

According to The Charlotte Observer’s Jonathan M. Alexander, the Panthers are open to brining back QB Cam Newton under two conditions.

If you’re hoping for another reunion between Cam Newton and the Carolina Panthers, it’s still very much a possibility. But that reunion, per Jonathan M. Alexander of The Charlotte Observer, could come with a few drawbacks for the former Most Valuable Player.

On Monday, Alexander reported that the Panthers are still open to bringing back their all-time leading passer. That, however, could be a bit of an uphill climb for Cam—as Newton would have to sign on for a “smaller salary” from 2021 and would not be considered the starter heading into training camp.

Two weeks ago, general manager Scott Fitterer joined PFT PM and told host Mike Florio that Newton and the team have remained in communication about a possible return.

“I think we’re still having thoughts,” Fitterer said. “We have to see how this works out here throughout the spring. I just happened to be up at the [Kentucky] Derby last weekend and Cam was up there. We’re texting a little bit. The lines of communication are open. I know Coach Rhule has spoken with him. We are going to have a discussion at some point but we’re just not quite there yet, but we’ll see how it goes. The more competition we have at that position the better.”

If not Newton, that competition could be Cleveland Browns quarterback Baker Mayfield. As also noted by Alexander, the Panthers are likelier to wait for the Browns to release their disgruntled passer rather than trade for the 2018 first overall pick.

“Discussions with the Browns and other teams will likely continue, but the Panthers are more likely to wait until the Browns potentially cut Mayfield to pick him up, sources have said,” writes Alexander, who also added that Carolina wants Cleveland to take on approximately $13 million to $14 million of Mayfield’s $18.9 million salary in a trade.

As of now, time is on the Panthers’ side—even if their options aren’t exactly the cream of the quarterback crop.

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Panthers’ updated roster following free agency, NFL draft

Here’s how the Carolina Panthers’ roster currently looks with the draft and much of free agency now behind us.

Even with the 2022 NFL draft and the vast majority of free agency now behind us, the Carolina Panthers just don’t seem quite finished tinkering. And that tinkering may ultimately give them their starting quarterback for the upcoming season.

But, until then, here’s what the roster currently looks like following the major steps of the offseason:

# Player Position
2 DJ Moore WR
3 Robbie Anderson WR
4 Davis Cheek QB
5 Zane Gonzalez K
6 Johnny Hekker P
7 Shaq Thompson LB
8 Jaycee Horn CB
9 Matt Corral QB
10 Ra’Shaun Henry WR
11 PJ Walker QB
12 Shi Smith WR
13 Talolo Limu-Jones WR
14 Sam Darnold QB
15 C.J. Saunders WR
15 Andrew Parchment WR
16 Brandon Zylstra WR
17 Rashard Higgins WR
18 Andre Roberts WR
20 Xavier Woods S
21 Jeremy Chinn S
22 Christian McCaffrey RB
23 Stantley Thomas-Oliver III CB
24 CJ Henderson CB
26 Donte Jackson CB
27 Kenny Robinson S
28 Keith Taylor Jr. CB
29 Rashaan Melvin CB
30 Chuba Hubbard RB
31 Juston Burris S
32 Darius Bradwell RB
33 D’Onta Foreman RB
34 Sean Chandler S
35 Kalon Barnes CB
36 Madre Harper CB
37 John Lovett RB
38 Myles Hartsfield CB
39 Chris Westry CB
40 Brandon Smith LB
41 Spencer Brown RB
42 Sam Franklin Jr. S
43 Jared Scott TE
44 JJ Jansen LS
45 Giovanni Ricci FB
46 Amaré Barno DE
46 Thomas Fletcher LS
47 Kamal Martin LB
48 Jacob Tuioti-Mariner LB
49 Frankie Luvu LB
50 Julian Stanford LB
52 Isaiah Graham-Mobley LB
53 Brian Burns DE
54 Daviyon Nixon DT
55 Cory Littleton LB
56 Bradley Bozeman C
57 Damien Wilson LB
60 Pat Elflein G
63 Austin Corbett G
64 Cade Mays G
65 Dennis Daley G
66 Mike Horton G
67 Wyatt Miller T
68 Sam Tecklenburg C
69 Frank Herron DE
70 Brady Christensen T
71 Phil Hoskins DT
72 Taylor Moton T
73 Michael Jordan G
74 Austen Pleasants T
75 Cameron Erving T
77 Deonte Brown G
78 Marquan McCall DT
79 Ikem Ekwonu T
80 Ian Thomas TE
82 Tommy Tremble TE
83 Derek Wright WR
84 Stephen Sullivan TE
85 Charleston Rambo WR
86 Colin Thompson TE
87 Josh Babicz TE
88 Terrace Marshall Jr. WR
90 Arron Mosby DE
91 Joe Jackson DE
92 Darryl Johnson DE
93 Bravvion Roy DT
94 Khalan Tolson LB
95 Derrick Brown DT
96 Austin Larkin DE
97 Yetur Gross-Matos DE
98 Marquis Haynes Sr. DE
99 Matt Ioannidis DT

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Is there ‘cautious optimism’ for a turnaround from Panthers QB Sam Darnold?

As noted by MMQB’s Albert Breer, Panthers QB Sam Darnold has made a “big jump” during the team’s early on-field work.

After a disappointing four-year start to his NFL career, Carolina Panthers quarterback Sam Darnold may be fading in the eyes and minds of many. But what about in the eyes and minds of the team itself?

In his latest edition of “Monday Morning Quarterback,” Sports Illustrated senior NFL reporter Albert Breer highlighted a glimmer of hope for the former third overall pick. He notes that as Carolina’s quarterback situation remains in flux, Darnold may have his chance to take the reins under center and ride with them into the 2022 campaign.

“New offensive coordinator Ben McAdoo had hopes he could turn Sam Darnold around, and there’s reason for cautious optimism there—coming back from the weekend following the team’s first week of on-field work, Darnold made a big jump,” Breer writes. “Meanwhile, rookie Matt Corral picked up the offense nicely, coming from Lane Kiffin’s simplistic, RPO-heavy scheme at Ole Miss. He flashed competitiveness and a whip for a right arm, has had no issues through lighter install days and managed himself well through the heavier installs. Corral is lights-out after the snap, but still swimming mentally a little before the snap.”

The selection of Corral, of course, has helped take much of the attention away from the struggling veteran. Darnold’s abysmal 2021 did much of that job anyway, as he threw for 13 interceptions to just nine touchdowns over 12 outings.

Breer also noted that if neither Darnold nor Corral make the Panthers’ decision any easier as we move into the summer, there’s that ever-popular escape plan still awaiting them.

“So where does that leave the Panthers? The two operative questions, along those lines, then are whether Darnold can build enough belief in those around him after the way last year went, and how quickly Corral comes along,” Breer adds. “I don’t think Carolina has the answer to either one of those questions yet, and may not for a while, which leaves the door open for Baker Mayfield.”

So if general manager Scott Fitterer and Matt Rhule wanted flexibility and competition at the quarterback position, well, they’ll certainly have it.

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