Ron Chenoy

There will be no Bill Belichick-type covertness within the confines of the Carolina Panthers. While the former has taken a vow of secrecy as it relates to the naming of starters for 2020, at any position, head coach Matt Rhule has already made his depth chart decisions rather public. As Rhule readies to kick off his first year with the Panthers, the team has listed not one or two, but four rookies in starting roles for the Week 1 opener against the visiting Las Vegas Raiders on its unofficial depth chart. 

The roles are made that much more poignant by the fact there was no NFL preseason due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, along with limited padded practices during the acclimation month of August (read: training camp). Nonetheless, Panthers fans will see offensive lineman Derrick Brown, defensive end Yetur Gross-Matos, safety Jeremy Chinn and cornerback Troy Pride, Jr. take the field when things get underway at Bank of America Stadium on Sept. 13, per Pro Football Talk. That means the team’s first-round pick, two second-rounders and a fourth-round pick, respectively, will all get a go at the Raiders — giving Rhule his first real look at what they’ll bring to the club going forward.

While bold, having four rookie defensive starters isn’t without logic for Carolina. It has suffered a massive amount of turnover this offseason, from Cam Newton now being under Belichick’s wing and having replaced him with Teddy Bridgewater, to the free agency losses of Gerald McCoy, Dontari Poe, James Bradberry, Bruce Irving and the retirement of all-world linebacker Luke Kuechly. Rhule has lots to figure out at key positions. 

And, as noted, he didn’t have a ton of time to do it, leaving him to roll the dice early on his draft picks. To be frank, when also factoring in injuries, Rhule doesn’t have much of a choice. For the rookies involved though, it’ll be a great opportunity for them to prove they were worth getting the call in April. It’s a brand new day in Charlotte, and on a lot of fronts, this being simply one of them.

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