The Los Angeles Rams open the 2019 regular season by traveling to face the Carolina Panthers in Week 1.
Here are my five Panthers to keep your eyes trained on in the season opener:
RB Christian McCaffrey
Have the Rams improved with their run defense this season? Well, we’ll get our first bit of an answer when McCaffrey takes the field. This is a dangerous offensive weapon who can catch the ball out in the flat and cause some damage. Last season, McCaffrey totaled 1,098 rushing yards on 219 carries with seven touchdowns and 107 catches for 867 yards and six touchdowns. The last stat is the doozy: 107 catches. This is the type of guy in the backfield that can ruin a defense.
LB Luke Kuechly
The front seven of the Panthers is no joke, and Kuechly is the mastermind behind the madness that is the Panthers defense. If the LA Rams are going to be able to move the ball with any sort of dominance in the running game, they are going to have to conjure up an answer for Kuechly. The 28-year old has suffered several concussions, so many football fans will be paying close attention to see if he’s still effective this season.
WR Curtis Samuel
After a series of injuries, Samuel seems to be right and ready to tear it up this season. The Ohio State product has quickness, potential, and a chip on his shoulder since he hasn't quite tasted success in the NFL. In short, the 23-year old Samuel is looking to prove himself, and he has the talent to do it. This will be a legit test for the loaded defensive back unit for the Rams — if they are going to shut down the Panthers’ passing game, Samuel is a good place to start.
OL Daryl Williams
The Panthers’ offensive line is a little banged up. Second-round pick LT Greg Little is in the concussion protocol on the injury report, so it looks like Williams will get the nod at left tackle. Williams is a former fourth-round pick from 2015 and more of a depth guy for the team, so this could be a position to exploit for DL Aaron Donald and company.
QB Cam Newton
A lot has been made of Newton’s ankle the past couple of weeks, but it looks like he’ll play against the LA Rams. Beyond his ankle, Newton’s shoulder has a shaky history and there’s a chance that he could be a bit rusty with his throwing mechanics. The fascinating aspect about Newton’s game is that he’s capable of playing like the best QB in the game at times and then, out of nowhere, he plays like a grouchy kid who doesn’t even want to be on the field. He’s an emotional player with tons of talent — the Rams’ defense needs to keep him uncomfortable during the game in the hopes that he’ll make a mistake.