Projecting the Carolina Panthers' Final 53-Man Roster After Preseason Week 2
As Week 2 of the preseason ended, coaches around the league went back and studied the film to help them evaluate who deserves to make the opening day roster.
For the Carolina Panthers in Week 2, there were both positives and negatives.
As for the negatives, the second and third-team offenses were unable to get the ball into the end zone, and the Dolphins had success against the defensive backups.
While the play of the backup units as a whole won't matter once the regular season starts, some of those backups will be asked to play a big role due to the inevitability of injuries.
Here is a projection of what I think the 53-man roster will be after Week 2 of the preseason; just be sure to remember that things are constantly changing in the NFL and that nothing is ever set in stone.
Offensive Skill Positions
Grant Halverson/Getty Images
Quarterback: (3) Cam Newton, Derek Anderson and Jimmy Clausen
At the beginning of the offseason, there was hope that Clausen could hold off Anderson. However, training camp and the preseason have proven that Clausen just isn't a legitimate NFL quarterback.
That being said, I expect the Panthers will want three quarterbacks on their roster and don't think that they will cut Clausen. In turn, giving him another opportunity to improve through the course of a season on an NFL roster.
Newton makes this area a major strength for the Panthers, as few expect him to suffer through the dreaded sophomore slump.
Running Back: (4) DeAngelo Williams, Jonathan Stewart, Mike Tolbert and Tauren Poole
Williams, Stewart and Tolbert are all locks who are in the team's plan for the foreseeable future. The controversial inclusion here is with Poole, who is trying to break into what will be one of the best backfields in the NFL.
Poole led the team in rushing in the first preseason game and just runs hard. At this point, a strong argument could be made for each side of the cutting Poole issue.
If he can continue to produce in the preseason, then I think the Panthers will reward him by dressing him on opening day. Poole will do whatever he can to help the team, and that kind of fire won't be overlooked when the final decisions are made.
Wide Receiver: (7) Steve Smith, Brandon LaFell, Louis Murphy, Joe Adams, Armanti Edwards, Kealoha Pilares, David Gettis
Smith, LaFell and Adams were no-brainers. Adams was always going to make the team because he is so dangerous on special teams and will be the team's primary punt returner.
Murphy has adjusted well thus far and caught two passes against the Miami Dolphins. At this point, it wouldn't be a surprise if Murphy became one of Newton's go-to guys on third down.
Pilares is also a dynamic returner who could see a lot of time returning kickoffs this fall.
While neither Pilares and Adams are going to make the team for their skills as wide receivers, both do have skill sets that could allow them to grow into that role in the future. In the mean time, they will be making big plays for the Panthers on special teams.
I wouldn't be surprised to see Adams playing on the offensive side of the ball a bit more than Pilares this season.
It remains to be seen if Gettis will be healthy by the start of the season, so he may have to stay on the PUP list.
Tight End and Offensive Line
Streeter Lecka/Getty Images
Tight End: (3) Greg Olsen, Ben Hartsock and Gary Barnidge
The departure of Jeremy Shockey makes this unit less explosive than a year ago. Mike Tolbert should be able to replicate Shockey's production, albeit in a different way.
Olsen should have another solid year as he continues to build chemistry with Cam Newton, and Hartsock is a solid blocking tight end.
Barnidge will make the team because he is athletic and has the potential to become a good receiving tight end. At the end of the day, the more weapons that the Panthers posses the better their offensive will be this season.
Offensive Lineman: (9) Ryan Kalil, Amini Silatolu, Jordan Gross, Byron Bell, Bruce Campbell, Scott Mruczkowski, Garry Williams, Bryan Browning, Geoff Hangartner
Not any major surprises along the offensive line up to this point, but I don't see Mike Pollak making the opening day roster.
Silatolu is a rookie, but has looked good thus far in the preseason. Gross and Kalil promise to deliver All-Pro performances at left tackle and center, respectively.
Newton's ability to make things happen with his feet will take away from some of the negative plays that the inexperienced guards may make.
The Defensive Front 7
Scott Cunningham/Getty Images
Defensive Ends: (4) Charles Johnson, Thomas Keiser, Frank Alexander, Greg Hardy,
Charles Johnson is arguably the best defensive end in the NFC South, and the Panthers need another defensive end to step up opposite him.
The assumption was that Greg Hardy would mature into that position to give Carolina a lethal pass rush off the edge, but he hasn't been able to do that up to this point.
Thus far in the preseason, Thomas Keiser and Frank Alexander have outplayed Hardy, and there are questions as to whether or not Hardy will make the team.
I don't think the Panthers are ready to give up Hardy just yet because of his immense potential.
Defensive Tackles: (4) Ron Edwards, Sione Fua, Terrell McClain, Andre Neblett
The return of Ron Edwards this season, who missed all of last season with a torn triceps, is huge for the defensive tackle unit.
Last season, the team finished 25th in run defense, and that has to improve if it hopes to make the playoffs this season.
The return of linebacker Jon Beason and drafting of Luke Kuechly will make the run defense much better this season, as long as the defensive tackles perform adequately.
While the Panthers defensive tackle corp isn't eyebrow-raising, the group has the ability to get the job done. This will certainly be a unit that the Panthers will address in future off seasons.
Linebackers: (7) Jon Beason, Luke Kuechly, Thomas Davis, James Anderson, Jason Williams, Ken Onatolu, Jordan Senn,
The Panthers linebacking corps that starts this season will be drastically different than the one that ended last season. With the players the Panthers have returning from injury and the drafting of Luke Kuechly, this year's unit should be much better.
Beason and Kuechly could make the unit one of the best in the NFC and will both be tackling machines.
If Davis is able to get healthy and play at anything close to his pre-injury level, then the Panthers could have one of the best linebacker units in the entire league.
However, Beason and Davis have been dealing with injuries in camp and need to prove that they can return to their healthy, productive forms.
Gregory Shamus/Getty Images
Cornerback: (5) Chris Gamble, Captain Munnerlyn, Josh Norman, Darius Butler, RJ Stanford
Injuries have hurt this unit. Brandon Hogan still isn't ready to play, and Josh Norman has played through injuries thus far this offseason.
The absence of Hogan allows both Butler and Stanford to make the cut at the cornerback position, but there will be immense pressure for everyone at the position.
Gamble is a solid first corner, but questions remain at the second cornerback slot because it remains to be seen if Captain Munnerlyn is capable of playing that position.
The injury to Norman has affected his ability to challenge Munnerlyn for the second corner position, but the battle hasn't been finished yet.
It remains to be seen if the current stock of Panthers corners will be enough to slow down high-octane offensive attacks they will face. At the very least, Carolina has the talent to play well if everyone can stay healthy.
Safety: (4) Charles Godfrey, Sherrod Martin, Haruki Nakamura, Jordan Pugh
The Panthers brought in Haruki Nakamura to push Sherrod Martin at free safety, and he has done just that thus far.
Carolina's strength on defense won't be its safeties, but its play at the positions should be better than last season.
I expect Godrey and Nakamura to start the season at safety, but all four players that make the opening day roster should be serviceable behind the Panthers' strong linebackers corp.
Kicker: Justin Medlock
Medlock has the better leg and kicks the ball deeper on kickoffs. Olindo Mare has been an NFL kicker for a long time, but Medlock has more to offer the Panthers than the longtime veteran.
Punter: Nick Harris
Harris has been the better punter thus far and will earn the spot over Brad Nortman.
Kickoffs: Keoloha Pilares
Pilares has been solid over the span of the preseason and should only grow into the role as the preseason progresses.
Punt Returner: Joe Adams
Adams had one of the most exciting plays in recent history as a member of the Arkansas Razorbacks this season and had the most electrifying play in Week 1 of the preseason as well.
Long Snapper: JJ Jansen