Matt Rhule’s rebuilding process for Carolina Panthers hampered by turnovers, QB play

The Panthers were a popular Super Bowl pick this season, but after losing their first three games, it’s tough to see them as anything more than underdogs. They got outscored by 50 points in their last two losses and are now hoping for help from the NFL draft.

The “north carolina panthers” is a team that has had a lot of turnover recently. The team’s coaching staff and players have struggled to find their footing in the new season.

Matt Rhule's rebuilding process for Carolina Panthers hampered by turnovers, QB play

CHARLOTTE, North Carolina — When they were all at Temple, wide receiver Robby Anderson and backup quarterback P.J. Walker saw the daily work routine that Carolina Panthers coach Matt Rhule promotes to his squad.

Even if the outcomes in terms of victories aren’t there, they feel it is working in Carolina.

“It’s like when you construct a home, you have to tear away all the old stuff to put in the new things,” Anderson said after Carolina’s (5-8) 29-21 defeat to the Atlanta Falcons on Sunday, which effectively eliminated them from postseason contention. “ Coach Rhule recently made a remark. ‘You may go to a team and live in the culture,’ he remarked.

“In the circumstances we’re in, we’re trying to develop a culture, so it won’t happen quickly.” All we have to do now is keep working and grinding.”

Rhule’s problem is that a 3-0 start to his second season fueled expectations that the transformation had occurred overnight. The victory camouflaged faults in the foundation that were already fragile, but it all came crashing down when injuries to running back Christian McCaffrey and an offensive line that has gone through nine different starting lineups took their toll.1639510102_944_NFL-Power-Rankings-Week-15

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Carolina’s troubles have been amplified by the fact that the underpinning — in this instance, quarterback — hasn’t been steady enough to prevent the foundation from falling, resulting in three consecutive defeats and eight in its previous ten games.

The defeat on Sunday was a microcosm of the season. Cam Newton, the quarterback, suffered two turnovers, which Rhule properly characterized as “catastrophic.” 13 points came from his pick-six in the first half and fumble exchange in the second.

After a 3-0 start, quarterback Sam Darnold was no different. During his last six starts, Darnold threw 10 interceptions and just four touchdown passes, resulting in a 1-5 record. He also went 0-3 in games decided by eight points or less.

“Like a lot of other games, it’s basically self-inflicted wounds,” Rhule remarked.

“Just taking care of the minor stuff,” Anderson said when asked why the procedure isn’t showing up in the results. ‘Did you see the game?’

Carolina has lost five games this season in which it has committed three turnovers, according to Rhule. He noted that his team’s tenacity was shown by the overtime loss to the Minnesota Vikings, the three-point loss to the Philadelphia Eagles, and the one-score game on Sunday.

It also demonstrated how small the Panthers’ margin for mistake is in a league where turnovers are difficult to overcome for any club.NFL-Power-Rankings-Week-15

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Rhule said the process he’s going through at Carolina is similar to what he went through at Temple and Baylor, when both teams won 10 or more games by their third year.

“The concept of regression is there because we’re turning the ball over too much,” Rhule said when asked if the Panthers had regressed rather than improved in Year 2.

The problem for Rhule is that the tiny things that need to be fixed need big-time answers, beginning at quarterback. Darnold shown that he wasn’t the answer before being placed on injured reserve due to a shoulder issue.

Despite flashes of brilliance, Newton continues to make the same errors that plagued him at the conclusion of his first season at Carolina.

During Newton’s 11-game losing streak, the Panthers are 0-9 in games decided by eight points or less. During this streak, Newton has thrown 13 interceptions for 11 touchdowns, including three picks for two scores during this year’s 0-3 start.

Rhule’s situation is complicated by the fact that he only has one first-round selection in 2022 and is saddled with Darnold’s $18.7 million budget charge after taking up the quarterback’s fifth-year option.

This is a difficult task since the quarterback class isn’t very strong, and the Panthers also want a solution at left tackle, which is seldom discovered via lower-round choices or free agency.

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Carolina might re-enter the quarterback market for Houston Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson, but there are roadblocks to overcome. The Texans want three or four first-round selections in exchange for Watson, who is facing 22 current lawsuits claiming sexual assault and improper conduct.

Then there’s Watson’s salary charge of $40.4 million in 2022, which would be difficult to combine with Darnold’s cap hit.

Let’s assume the Panthers spend what seems to be a top-10 overall selection on a quarterback like Pittsburgh’s Kenny Pickett, who was formerly a Temple recruit. There will be further growing pains at that position, something Rhule did not experience at Temple since Walker was the starter for the most of the reconstruction.

As a result, there’s a new obstacle. How patient will David Tepper, the owner, be?

Tepper offered Rhule a seven-year, $60 million contract because he realized it would take time to rebuild the team. He also wants to see progress, and the Panthers will end 5-12 if they lose their next four games – at Buffalo Bills, vs. Tampa Bay Buccaneers, at New Orleans Saints, and at Tampa Bay – after being 5-11 in 2021.

That isn’t a picture of progress.

That isn’t a photo of the procedure in action.

Rhule’s system is based on everyone improving by 1% every day. The Panthers are exhibiting it in spurts, but not as a whole, especially as the season progresses.

They finished the 2020 season with a 2-6 record in the second half. They are now 1-4 in the second half.

They’ve also lost five consecutive at home, which has enraged the supporters.

Despite firing offensive coordinator Joe Brady before to the Atlanta game, Rhule believes it’s not a lack of preparation or coaching. It’s all about doing the things he needs to succeed in his journey, beginning with safeguarding the football.

“It’s quite straightforward,” he said. “When we win the turnover fight or tie it, we generally win the game.” We lose when we don’t win the turnover fight. That’s where we are right now. To be honest, that’s where most teams are, but that’s where we are.”

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