Sunday seems like a final chapter for the Carolina Panthers. A tangible step down here in 2021, with messes abound, will certainly have the organization wiping some of their slate clean for next season.
So, as the Panthers are set to close the campaign against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, keep that and these following storylines in mind for Week 18.
Is this goodbye?
AP Photo/Adrian Kraus
As the Panthers head into the 2022 offseason, it really feels as though they’ll be coming back out on the other side with either Cam Newton or Matt Rhule. And it doesn’t seem like owner David Tepper is ready to give up on the latter.
It’s no secret that the second-year head coach doesn’t exactly have an affinity for Newton—at least as his starting quarterback. Rhule’s preference is clearly not the man who he cut back in March 2020, but the one who he’s invested multiple draft picks and almost $19 million into—Sam Darnold.
So, as Darnold gets the nod again on Sunday, will we see Newton at all? Will he see more than the lone snap he got against the New Orleans Saints in Week 17? And, if this is indeed the end, will Newton get some sort of a proper sendoff?
AP Photo/Jacob Kupferman
Will we even see Robby Anderson? Well, that prospect isn’t looking exactly great either.
The sixth-year wideout, amidst a very disappointing campaign, was a non-participant in practice throughout the week due to a quad injury. Rhule stated that Anderson, who the team listed as questionable for the contest, will be a game-time decision come Sunday.
To make matters even foggier at the position, Rhule also said he doesn’t not anticipate getting Shi Smith (along with cornerback Stephon Gilmore and defensive end Yetur Gross-Matos) back from the reserve/COVID-19 list. Oh, and Terrace Marshall Jr. is down as well after being sent to the injured reserve on Wednesday.
If Anderson isn’t a go in Tampa Bay, Carolina will have to presumably reach down to the practice squad for some reinforcements, as…