Bears News: Previewing the UFL: Michigan Panthers

Bears News: Previewing the UFL: Michigan Panthers

by - Senior Writer -

Although Chicago may not have a team of its own to claim, it does have a pair of teams close enough to it to follow, and one of those teams is the Michigan Panthers.

Based in Detroit, Michigan, the Panthers were one of the bigger surprises in the USFL last season. Now, second-year head coach Mike Nolan led a dramatic turnaround in his first year. The defensive mastermind has previous head coaching experience with the 49ers, but his success in the NFL came primarily from being a coordinator. Like last season, the Panthers will play their games at Ford Field, and again, it looks like a tough out, no matter who they play.

When you look at this roster, one of the significant changes you immediately see is Josh Love not playing QB this season. He was a big reason why the Panthers were so competitive last season. Set to replace Love under center will be the combination of Danny Eiting and Davis Cheek, as both are expected to battle for time. EJ Perry could also find his way on the field for some early season playing time, but without having an answer at quarterback at the moment, things could be tough offensively for this team.

For the Panthers offense to be successful this season, it will be the running game that will carry them. Even without speedster Stevie Scott in the mix, the Panthers will again have one of the better duos in the league, as Matt Colburn and Wes Hills will shoulder the load.

Hills was a beast for the New Orleans Breakers last spring, while Colburn teamed up with Scott to give teams fits.

They will be especially crucial for whoever is under center, as Trey Quinn and Devin Gray are the only trusted options in the passing game.

As mentioned above, Nolan had most of his success in the NFL as a defensive coordinator, which is no different here in the UFL. He may not be calling the defensive plays, but this is still his scheme, and his defense was a menace, especially in the first three or four games. For this team to have any chance to make the playoffs, the defense will need to step up, and they will be in great hands.

Ron'Dell Carter is a name to watch up front as he claims his perch at DE this season. He will be matched by former Michigan State standout Kenny Willekes, who is on the other side and hoping to be one of the better duos in the game. Willekes has spent some time with the Minnesota Vikings, and although his playing time was limited, he still came away with 16 career tackles and 2.5 sacks. Expect those numbers to increase dramatically this season, as he will be a massive part of this defense.

While the defensive line should be good this season, the LB group will be a massive question mark, as the Panthers don't have much experience at LB. Frank Ginda is one of many players expected to battle for a starting spot, but Noah Dawkins will be the leader of this group, as he is the only one with previous NFL experience. Dawkins was a member of the Bears in 2022, only to be released later that season.

Looking at the secondary, Javin White, another member of the Chicago Bears 2022 practice squad, and Nate Brooks are the most likely candidates to begin the season on the outside. Both have been on NFL rosters, with Brooks logging 11 career tackles. Look for Kai Nacua to anchor the safety position, as he has registered 19 career NFL tackles. Although limited in NFL experience, it's that kind of experience that can go a long way, as the Panthers have some talent on both sides of the ball looking to make an impact for future NFL teams.

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