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The Panthers front office made a lot of changes to their roster this offseason, beginning at the top with another quarterback swap. On paper they appear to have a strong offensive unit. However, there’s still questions left to be answered.

Here are six we have about Carolina’s offense heading into 2021.

How much of an upgrade is Sam Darnold over Teddy Bridgewater?

Jim Dedmon-USA TODAY Sports

The Panthers have upgraded at cornerback, linebacker and tight end since they last took the field. None of that will matter if they don’t get a significant improvement at the most important position in the sport. Teddy Bridgewater failed last year due to physical limitations and a disconnect with head coach Matt Rhule. With Sam Darnold, his athleticism and talent aren’t the issues. The question is if he can learn to calm down and avoid the mistakes he made too often with the Jets while taking advantage of a far more potent supporting cast. If he does, Darnold could lead this team to a plus-.500 record for the first time in four years. If not, fans could be in for another five or six-win season.

Who will replace Russell Okung at left tackle?

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The second-most important position in the modern game is left tackle – although center may be catching up. In any case, it’s next on the list for Carolina after seven years of turnover and uncertainty on the blind side. The fact that Taylor Moton took some practice reps last week at left tackle underscores how thin the Panthers are at this spot. Cameron Erving, Trent Scott, Brady Christensen, Greg Little and Dennis Daley may all have a chance to play there. Hopefully one of them rises to the occasion and secures a long-term starter status.

What’s the right workload for Christian McCaffrey?

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The Panthers have a Ferrari parked in the RB garage in Christian McCaffrey, who is one of the game’s best backs when he’s healthy. Unfortunately, No. 22 missed most of last season due to multiple injuries, raising questions about his workload. For what it’s worth, offensive coordinator Joe Brady says there’s no plan to change how much they use him. However they go about it, Brady has to strike the right balance between using his best asset and giving him enough snaps off to keep him fresh and healthy.

How much will OC Joe Brady improve in Year 2?

(AP Photo/Chris Carlson)

The guy responsible for answering a lot of these questions is offensive coordinator Joe Brady. After an impressive first year as a playcaller, Brady saw a lot of interest from teams searching for a head coach – scoring at least five interviews. While his work was promising, Brady probably called too many first-down runs and had issues in the red zone all season. How much Brady learns from his mistakes in 2020 and builds on the things he did well will have a huge impact on how many games the Panthers will win.

Which receiver is the best to use in the slot?

Jim Dedmon-USA TODAY Sports

Perhaps the most interesting thing to watch early in the season will be how the passing game develops with Curtis Samuel gone, Christian McCaffrey returning and a few new receivers in the fold. Brady and Darnold need to determine who their best slot receiver is. For our money, it’s D.J. Moore – who has always thrived in that spot despite not seeing a lot of action there. Robby Anderson and rookie Shi Smith (who took Moore’s former jersey number) should also be in the mix.

Who should be the team’s top red zone target?

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The Panthers ran the ball well and moved the chains consistently last season. They had a lot of trouble getting past the goal line, though. Bridgewater and Brady have to share most of the blame, but part of the issue was a lack of traditional big-frame targets. Tight end Dan Arnold was productive for Arizona in those areas last season, while rookie wide receiver Terrace Marshall Jr. led college football in touchdown catches inside the 10 over the last two seasons. Omar Bayless sat out last year due to injury but he’s another possibility. Whoever it is, Carolina has to find their new Greg Olsen and let him eat. [vertical-gallery id=637384]