Special teams: Trending Up
Before eventually settling on Graham Gano at kicker and Michael Palardy at punter, last season’s special teams battles were some of the fiercest on the entire roster. But if 2017 was any indication, Carolina chose wisely.
Gano made 29 of his 30 field goals last season, with the lone miss coming from beyond 50 yards, and also converted 34 of his 37 point-after attempts. All that combined to earn him the first Pro Bowl nod of his nine-year career, as Gano was one of the most reliable kickers in the NFL.
Likewise, Palardy developed into a legitimate weapon for the Panthers as far as flipping field position. He averaged 46 yards per punt and dropped 25 punts inside the 25-yard line, giving coach Ron Rivera another option for when the offense stalled out. And this offseason, nothing has changed for either guy, nor has it for the team’s dependable long snapper, J.J. Jansen.
The return game, if anything, is where Carolina still has some things to figure out. Christian McCaffrey, D.J. Moore, Donte Jackson, and a number of other players have taken reps in the return game, but all of the above are good options. Rather, Rivera will have a number of guys he can rotate, at least until roles define themselves.