Following an 11-5 season, the Carolina Panthers have high hopes in 2018. In the ultra-competitive NFC, it is very important that the team has a number of offensive and defensive players to rely on in order to take the necessary steps to another playoff berth. Here is a look at the 2018 Carolina Panthers team award predictions.
2018 Carolina Panthers Team Award Winners Predictions
Offensive Player of the Year: Cam Newton
This seems like an easy choice, right? The veteran quarterback is entering his eighth season with the Panthers and arguably has the best supporting cast he’s ever had around him. With the acquisitions of C.J. Anderson and Torrey Smith, along with the draft picks of D.J Moore and Ian Thomas, the offense has never had more depth coming into a season. The added weapons should create more passing lanes around the field and space everything out for Newton to continue being a threat with his own legs. New offensive coordinator Norv Turner can get creative with Newton and open up more ways for the former MVP to be successful.
Cam Newton’s season predictions: 3,700 passing yards, 725 rushing yards, 34 total touchdowns, 64% completion percentage.
Runner-up: Christian McCaffrey
Offensive Rookie of the Year: Ian Thomas
While most people think that the first round selection D.J. Moore is the favorite for this award, it will be Ian Thomas that makes more of an impact in year one. Thomas has the size and speed to be a stellar receiving tight end one day. Even though he is a little raw, he will be a great second tight end option for a team that finds success in jumbo and power offensive sets. He may not have the most flashy numbers by the end of the season, but the growth throughout his rookie campaign will be important to watch as veteran Greg Olsen nears retirement. Thomas will capitalize on his opportunities and this season will be the start of a great career for Thomas in black and blue.
Ian Thomas’ season predictions: 34 receptions, 325 receiving yards, three touchdowns.
Runner-up: D.J. Moore
Comeback Player of the Year: Greg Olsen
Olsen, who only appeared in seven games a year ago thanks to a foot injury, is ready to reclaim his role as Mr. Reliable in the Panthers offense. Although they drafted Ian Thomas, Olsen still has enough in the tank to produce his normal numbers. The addition of Norv Turner’s brain to the offense will also help Olsen as Turner is known for his creativity in getting the tight end spot involved in the offense. His importance to this team at the first down markers and in the red zone is undoubtedly high and the Panthers will be relying on 88 to be his usual self this season.
Greg Olsen’s season predictions: 72 receptions, 975 yards, six touchdowns.
Runner-up: Curtis Samuel
Breakout Performer: Christian McCaffrey
You saw this one coming. After leading all rookies in receptions last season, McCaffrey is looking to improve the ground game in 2018. Now the featured back, “Run CMC” will become the workhorse the Panthers imagined he would become when they took him with the seventh overall selection in the 2017 draft. New offensive coordinator Norv Turner has coached up and worked with some great running backs in his days and his offensive scheme will maximize the abilities of McCaffery. We got to see a glimpse of “the new” McCaffrey this preseason and as a runner he looked great, averaging over seven yards per carry in 21 attempts. Although the 25 to 30 touches per game goal might be a little lofty, CMC is due to set defenses on fire this season.
Christian McCaffery’s season predictions: 875 rushing yards, 95 receptions, 690 receiving yards, 10 total touchdowns.
Runner-up: Taylor Moton
Defensive Player of the Year: Luke Kuechly
Death, taxes, and Luke Kuechly being great. All three are as reliable as it gets. Kuechly may have undergone right shoulder surgery in mid-February but there is no reason to believe that he still won’t have a standout season. The tackling machine is still one of the best linebackers in football and that’ll hold true in 2018. The Panthers will need Kuechly to be just that as question marks remain behind him on the field, in the secondary. Under new defensive coordinator Eric Washington, the Panthers defense figures to be just as aggressive as previous years and that will help Luke have a chance at a few more interceptions and fumble recoveries to add to his historic career in Charlotte.
Luke Kuechly’s season predictions: 99 tackles, 1.5 sacks, three interceptions, two forced fumbles, four fumble recoveries, one defensive touchdown.
Runner-up: Kawann Short
Defensive Rookie of the Year: Donte Jackson
Donte “Action” Jackson will be thrown right into the action and be the Panthers starting cornerback in week one of the regular season. The ultra-quick rookie will look to make a name for himself right off the bat and make an impact in an area of weakness for Carolina. As a former LSU standout in the tough SEC conference, Jackson will be ready for the test and give the Panthers much-needed cornerback help. Jackson will begin to establish himself as the Panthers best cornerback since Josh Norman infamously left in 2016.
Donte Jackson’s season predictions: 45 tackles, 12 passes defended, three interceptions, one defensive touchdown.
Runner-up: Rashaan Gaulden
Comeback Player of the Year: James Bradberry
In the case of Bradberry, it wasn’t that he had a bad 2017 season, or was injured for any duration, it was that he was sometimes inconsistent in his play. Headed into his third season, it’s time for Bradberry to step up and be the consistent lockdown cornerback the Panthers have been seeking for the past couple of years. Panthers officials have agreed that it was a good off-season for Bradberry and he will look to continuously improve as the anchor of the secondary this season.
James Bradberry season predictions: 70 tackles, 15 passes defended, four interceptions, one forced fumble.
Runner-up: Vernon Butler
Breakout Performer: Shaq Thompson
The third link to one of the most prolific linebacker corps in all of the football, Shaq Thompson is looking to make his own name for himself in 2018. Now entering his fourth season, Thompson will start the year with more responsibility due to Thomas’ four-game suspension. After a strong showing in preseason, Thompson will continue to impress and really help the Panthers high powered defense this season. Sure it always helps to play next to Luke Kuechly, but Thompson will show offenses that there are more than one or two linebackers to worry about in Charlotte this season. Who knows, his first Pro Bowl season could be on the horizon.
Shaq Thompson’s season predictions: 51 tackles, four passes defended, two interceptions, one fumble recovery, three sacks.
Runner-up: Donte Jackson