With the 2022 season coming to an end the Michigan were extremely underwhelming as they limped their way to a 2-8 record. Despite, the overall disappointment the Panthers showed in 2022, their week 10 victory over the Maulers have guaranteed the Panthers the number one overall pick moving forward into 2023.
Despite the many questions of the 2023 USFL Draft pool, the Panthers for the second year in a row hold the number one overall pick and will look to build and improve their roster. Last year the Panthers selected Shea Patterson who was cut mid-season and replaced by Josh Love the former Pittsburgh Mauler.
Quarterback Grade: C-
The Panthers would have four quarterbacks take the field in 2022. The number one overall pick Shea Patterson would be released mid-season and would be replaced by Paxton Lynch and Josh Love. Overall, the Panthers Quarterbacks were plagued by inconsistent Offensive Line play in addition a plethora of drops by their receivers, however Patterson and Lynch specifically didn’t help themselves much. Patterson was extremely jumpy in the pocket and often times bailed out of the pocket without looking for his second or third option. Lynch towards his last two starts did seem to move the offense in a way more proficient manner, Lynch accounted for 7 TDs in his 3 starts while Patterson accounted for 6 TDs in what seemed like double the playing time. Lynch did however, end the season on a high note by winning Offensive Player of the Week for Week 10.
The Panthers also saw playing time from Josh Love and Eric Barriere who combined for 467 yards 3 Tds and 3 Ints in a limited role. Both QBs do bring an intriguing skillset to the 2023 Panthers. Love seemed to be extremely comfortable in the “pro-style” offense Coach Jeff Fisher was a part of, while Eric Barriere athletic ability and strong arm, made him one of the most dynamic FCS Quarterbacks. Moving forward, the Panthers have a lot of different options they can go at QB. With so much in question regarding the USFL draft pool, the QB position remains a rather unknown. I’d personally like to see Paxton Lynch coming into the 2023 season as QB1 for the Panthers, my biggest concern with the Panthers is the offensive line and receiving corps. Without a true number 1 receiver or a solid Left Tackle no matter who is behind center the Panthers will not be able to efficiently run a dynamic offense. While I am a Josh Love fan, I do not see him coming back for 2023 nor do I see Eric Barriere, while both players as I stated have an intriguing skillset, the Panthers may need fresh blood to challenge Lynch if he comes back.
Running Back Grade: A-
This was hands down the most dynamic position group for the Michigan Panthers. Led by Reggie Corbin who was a USFL Player of the Week the Panthers were third in the USFL in rushing and had multiple players that had the ability to break the game open. Corbin would finish the season with 516 yards on the ground which was good enough for 4th in the league despite missing two games and leaving one game early. Going into 2023, many expect Reggie Corbin to possibly transition in an NFL camp, leaving the Panthers with Stevie Scott, Cameron Scarlett and DeAndre Torrey for 2023. Scott and Scarlett were able to match Corbin’s production with a combine 526 yards, in addition to being an effective option in the passing game. Torrey, who was a Week 10 addition, was an all-conference player at North Texas before joining the USFL.
Moving forward the Panthers Running back situation with or without Corbin seems to be trending in a positive direction. The combination of Torrey, Scott, and Scarlett would seemingly be able to replace an All-USFL player like Corbin which at this point is all speculation, however losing Corbin would still be all tall order for the Panthers regardless. All in all, the running back situation appears to be the least of the Panthers problem going into 2023.
Wide Receiver and Tight Ends Grade: C
This group was definitely one of the less consistent corps of the whole USFL. Originally expected to be led by Quincy Adeboyejo, Lance Lenoir, Jeff Badet, and Ray Bolden, however only Lenoir would be on the roster come week 10. Adeboyejo would end up not reporting, while Jeff Badet and Ray Bolden would end being released. Lenoir emerged as the leader of the receiving corps, leading the league in targets (88), receptions (52), and 2nd in receiving yards (484). The Panthers were also aided by Devin Ross and Joe Walker who were late additions to the roster. Ross was a supplemental draft pick while Walker was signed to replace Adeboyejo and would be crucial on special teams, an emergency QB, and as a number 2 option behind Lenoir late in the season. Walker also would win week 9 Offensive player of the week, boosting his value even more for the Panthers. The Panthers were also saw the emergence of Ishmael Hyman, an NFL vet, who had 6 receptions for 71 yards and a touchdown in the week 10 finale.
The Panthers Tight End Group was in my opinion a pleasant surprise, led by La’Michael Pettway, this group combined for 44 receptions, 480 yards and 4 touchdowns. Pettway was joined by Marcus Baugh, Ryan O’Malley, Connor Davis, and Joe Magnifico (who was released due to injury) to provide the Panthers QB’s for a safety blanket.
Moving forward I would love to see the Panthers upgrade their receiving corps. The Panthers lack a true number 1 threat. A receiver who can take over the game and elevate the play of the QB. I don’t if there is a Charles Johnson or Rashard Ross of the USFL right now, but the Panthers desperately need one. The tight end position was above league average in my opinion. Many don’t realize that Pettway could be viewed as a poor man’s Sal Cannella and someone many would put in the top half of the USFL TEs.
Offensive Line Grade: D+
I wasn’t impressed by the offensive line at all. In game one I continually watched Sean Pollard for the first several games have issues with snaps and transfers to the QB that led to multiple turnovers and loss of yards. Repeatedly I saw Keith Williams play high and look winded as the Panthers would come out flat several times during the first series of many second halves. The one saving grace on the Oline I felt was Tejan Koroma, who switched between guard and center, multiple times throughout the course of the season. I would give this unit a lower grade if it wasn’t for the fact between the Panthers running backs play making ability that this unit was effective at generating push during run blocking.
I was extremely disappointed in the Panthers offense coming into 2022. I expected a progressive Read-option based offense that was going to allow for quick throws and maximizing the weak offensive line. Obviously, I was wrong. While the Panthers offense at times were competitive many times they often put together drives too little too late. In weeks 1 and 2 the Panthers combined for only 18 points, and at 6 times this year the Panthers lost a game by one score.
I’d like to see the Panthers upgrade the offensive line, receiving corps and before the QB position, as I do believe that Paxton Lynch is capable to lead this team moving forward. Overall, I give the Offense a C for the 2022 season, however, this is an extremely capable unit, that has the ability to explode in 2023. I would give them a C- but we did have 3 Offensive Players of the week with Paxton Lynch, Joe Walker and Reggie Corbin.