It’s Panthers Season, Folks!

The so-called experts said it would never happen, but it appears we’re going to survive the Summer of 2018, which means one thing: Here comes football!

And for Panthers fans, this is a particularly exciting development, because Cam & The Cats have the potential to be good. Like Super Bowl good. Like the last-ever-NFL-champions-before-the-full-on-collapse-of-humanity good. And if that doesn’t move the meter for you, then I don’t know what will.

OK, I’m Intrigued. So What Have I Missed So Far?

A lot! This past offseason has been among the most eventful in the franchise’s twenty-five-year history. First and foremost, the team has a new owner in the apparently forward-thinking David Tepper, a man whose evident common decency already sets him apart from the disgraced Jerry Richardson. As has been demonstrated in other locales, simply having a corrupt and vile owner can be enough to destroy a proud franchise, so this is the most vital possible development.

In addition, the Panthers reinstated former longtime general manager Marty Hurney and have new coordinators on both the offensive and defensive sides of the ball. They’ve added weapons on offense to help Cam Newton and shored up an already stout defense. The Panthers are making moves, people! Which they will need to do to in order to keep pace in one of the most competitive divisions in pro sports.

Sweet! So How Have They Looked So Far?

While it’s notoriously difficult to discern anything of substance from preseason action, the early returns looked reasonably OK in the Panthers’ 28–23 victory in their exhibition opener against Buffalo. The beginning of the game was marred by a tempest-in-a-teapot midfield confrontation between Newton and former top target Kelvin Benjamin, who has recently made some modestly disparaging remarks about Newton’s passing accuracy. Newton proceeded to not be particularly accurate in limited playing time, finishing 6–9 for 84 yards with some high throws and questionable reads. He’s learning a new offense, and he will be fine.

What was of greater significance was the impressive performance by 2018 first-round pick D.J. Moore, who contributed four receptions for 75 yards and looked very comfortable in his pro debut. If Moore can turn into the true number-one receiver the organization envisions, new offensive coordinator Norv Turner’s downfield attack suddenly feels viable, if not downright dangerous.

And the Defense?

They were shaky for long stretches, and the Panthers trailed 17–7 at the half, which is sort of the only half that matters in these glorified scrimmages. They’re a talented group in the front seven, but they’re still piecing together a secondary. They’re integrating a host of rookies, some of whom may end up starting, and some of whom won’t make the team. Nothing to worry about—yet.

Why Are You Being Squirrelly? Are They Good or Not?

They’re good!
Jesus. Get off my ass. It’s the preseason.

OK, Fine. What Should I Be Looking For?

Tonight’s second exhibition tilt with the Dolphins is a good place to start. All will not be revealed with regard to the final rosters, but we can anticipate a longer look at the starters and bigger roles for those players who are all but guaranteed to be on the field week one. Cross your fingers and toes (not in a weird way) that the Panthers avoid the nasty rash of recent injuries in preseason games that has already sidelined high-profile players like Washington’s rookie RB Derrius Guice and the Eagles’ Super Bowl MVP-winning backup Nick Foles. For the Panthers, there is no bigger priority in August than remaining healthy.