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Falcons 2016 schedule preview: The Panthers come to town in Week 4

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The Falcons cap the first quarter of the season playing the Panthers. How much do we know about the 2016 version of that team?

Carolina Panthers v Atlanta Falcons Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

After the Falcons navigate an early stretch that features the Buccaneers, Raiders, and Saints, they get the Super Bowl-losing Carolina Panthers. How fun!

The Falcons handed the Panthers their sole regular season loss a year ago, which was a lot of fun, but there’s no point in denying that Atlanta will go into this week as an underdog unless Carolina collapses very early. This would be a great time for the Falcons to make a statement, especially since they get to host this game.

Here’s more about the Panthers heading into 2016, straight from Cat Scratch Reader.

Notable free agent additions:

  • DT Paul Soliai - Expected to back-up Star Lotulelei
  • C/OG Gino Gradkowski - versatile back-up for the interior o-line
  • P Mike Scifres - coming off a leg injury

Notable free agent departures:

  • CB Josh Norman - Panthers rescinded franchise tag and he signed with the Redskins
  • DE Jared Allen - retirement
  • CB Charles Tillman - he is still a free agent as he heals from an ACL injury; says if he plays again it will be for the Panthers only
  • P Brad Nortman - Jaguars overpaid for his services
  • S Roman Harper - Panthers did not offer; now back in New Orleans

Trades:

Ha! As if Dave Gettleman would trade a player away. He did make a draft pick trade to move up in the draft at one point.

Draft picks expected to contribute as rookies:

  • DT Vernon Butler - Should be in the DT rotation at some point
  • One of the rookie CBs (James Bradberry, Darryl Worley, Zack Sanchez) should get significant snaps if not start; currently Bradberry has the edge

Biggest offseason addition:

At 345 lbs that would be Soliai. Impact-wise the Panthers didn’t add a veteran starter besides the punter.

Biggest storyline heading into training camp:

The return of WR Kelvin Benjamin. Though statistically the Panthers didn’t seem to miss Benjamin don’t tell Cam Newton that. Benjamin’s 73 catches for 1,003 yards and 9 TDs as a rookie in 2014 was sorely missed at times in 2015.

Under-the-radar storyline heading into training camp:

WR Devin Funchess has turned heads at OTAs with his maturity (he’s only 22), route running and hands. While the Panthers top 3 WRs (Benjamin, Ginn and Brown) can certainly make great catches, all three are prone to drops. If Funchess can prove to be more reliable he can garner more targets and challenge as the Panthers #2 WR.

Notable injuries heading into training camp:

  • RB Jonathan Stewart appears to still have issues from his leg injury in SB50. Though he is expected to be 100% by TC we will be keeping an eye on him.
  • CB Bene Benwikere and WR Kelvin Benjamin have been declared 100% from their 2015 season ending injuries.

No other significant injuries