The Panthers were hopeful that Justin Fields would reach a different level in 2023, but they knew it was going to be a challenging season once the schedule was released. The first 6 weeks of the 2023 schedule featured the following matchups:
A divisional matchup vs a team that went 16-0 during the regular season the previous year
All 3 of the former NFC champions of the past 3 seasons.
Additionally, 2 former playoff teams from the AFC South
The results of those first 6 weeks impacted the entire season for the Panthers and Justin Fields. Fields turned the ball over 18 times; throwing 15 INTs and fumbling 3 times. It set the tone for the next few games where Fields threw 11 more INTs altogether vs the Saints, Falcons, and Titans.
The season would continue well after the Panthers were eliminated from the playoffs. Things came to a head in Week 14 vs the Falcons. The Panthers had started a 2 game when streak, upsetting the then playoff-bound Green Bay Packers and beating the Chicago Bears. After going 4/11 and 3 INTs vs the Falcons, Fields was benched. Tyree Jackson came in and went 9/13 for 262 and 2 TDs.
The following week the Panthers went back to Fields, who then threw for 4 more INTs in each of the next 3 games.
However, in Week 17 vs the Texans, Justin Fields would complete 75% of his passes, and threw for 429 yards and 5 touchdowns.
The Panthers will stick with Justin Fields. He’s too good of an athlete for them to turn another option. They desperately need him to level up in order for them to have success. How he reaches that next level is the question the Panthers need to find an answer to this next season.
One solution might be that the answer is on the roster. The Panthers have an elite pass catching running back in Christian McCaffrey. They largely went away from McCaffrey this season in favor of a power running game that Najee Harris provided. The Panthers need to give McCaffrey one more shot at being the center piece of this offense. The team also has a surplus of amazing wide receivers. DJ Moore is elite and reliable as ever. Curtis Samuel is one of the most deadly receivers in the league when he has the ball in his hands. Robby Anderson is still one of the most athletic guys playing the position. Beyond that, the Panthers have two younger threats that have shined when given the opportunity in Devin Carter and Dee Beckwith.
Justin Fields and Dee Beckwith connected over the last two games of the season, in which Beckwith had an amazing Week 17 game, scoring 5 TDs and amassing 384 yards on 25 receptions.
If Fields can get the Panthers to commit to McCaffrey once again, rely on their amazing receiving core, and minimize turnovers, Fields may have a rebound season in 2024.