Training camp has come and gone at Wofford College in Spartanburg, S.C. for the Carolina Panthers. As we look forward to their second preseason game on Saturday in Tennessee, let’s have some fun and do an early 53-man roster projection for the Panthers based on what we saw in both training camp and their preseason opener.
Running Back (3)
What about Fozzy Whittaker you might ask? I see the Panthers keeping just three running backs due to the versatility of Curtis Samuel, the second round pick from Ohio State that is listed as a receiver but can play snaps at running back as well. Whittaker plays a similar style to both rookies Christian McCaffrey and Curtis Samuel, so having another bigger back on the roster like Cameron Artis-Payne in case Jonathan Stewart gets injured makes more sense.
Young beats out the rookie Alex Armah and wins the fullback job. Armah is a candidate for the practice squad.
Wide Receiver (6)
Curtis Samuel (R)
Damiere Byrd impressed throughout training camp and followed that up with an explosive performance last Thursday night against the Houston Texans. Byrd will be used as a returner as well. Brenton Bersin is on the roster bubble but may sneak on to the final 53-man roster if he performs well the rest of preseason. Bersin is competing with Kaelin Clay, Austin Duke and others for that final receiver spot.
Offensive Line (10)
Taylor Moton (R)
Matt Kalil was given a massive five-year contract in free agency worth $55.5 million with $25 million guaranteed. Pencil him in as Cam Newton’s new left tackle following the release of Michael Oher last month. Rookie Taylor Moton has impressed in training camp with his versatility, spending time at both tackle spots and even guard. It would not be a shock to see him find his way into this starting lineup by season’s end if either Daryl Williams or Andrew Norwell struggle.
Defensive Line (9)
Daeshon Hall (R)
Texas A&M rookie Daeshon Hall finds his way on the roster with the last defensive end spot. Not too many surprises here, but look for defensive ends Julius Peppers, Wes Horton, and Daeshon Hall to all get playing time in a rotation behind starters Charles Johnson and Mario Addison. Kawann Short is an elite defensive tackle who’s looks to have another big season.
Ben Jacobs is the odd man out as the Panthers only keep six linebackers this year. Jeremy Cash and Jared Norris are valuable special teams contributors as well. Clemson rookie Ben Boulware is a potential practice squad candidate.
Corn Elder (R)
James Bradberry has the chance to establish himself as a star cornerback in this league if he can take the next step in his development. He has certainly impressed throughout training camp, earning rave reviews from coaches and teammates. Teddy Williams just loses out to rookie Corn Elder, despite Elder not practicing due to a knee injury. Elder is simply too talented to stash on the practice squad, as another team in the league would undoubtedly steal him. If Elder’s knee injury does not heal in time for the start of the season, he could start the year on the Physically Unable to Perform (PUP) list, which would open up a roster spot for Teddy Williams. Elder would likely replace Williams on the roster once he is healthy enough to play.
Safety depth is the biggest weakness on this team and General Manager Marty Hurney will definitely watch the waiver wire as teams make their roster cuts around the league. While Southward is penciled in as making the team here, look for him to be replaced by a free agent the Panthers claim or sign at the roster cuts deadline.
There we have it, our Panthers final 53-man roster projection as it stands today. With three more preseason games to go, this is certainly subject to change.