5 Panthers Veterans Who Could Be Camp Casualties
With nearly a week of training camp in the books, we're getting a better idea with each passing day of what the Carolina Panthers' final roster will look like.
When a team experiences as much roster turnover as Carolina did this offseason, it becomes increasingly difficult to project which players will make the team, as many have to make fresh impressions on the new coaching staff.
This leaves veterans in the precarious positions of proving themselves as if they were rookies again, leaving them more vulnerable than ever to being cut in camp.
The following Panthers veterans are those who are in most trouble of losing their roster spot with final cuts less than a month away.
James Dockery, Cornerback
Dockery is now in his third season with the Panthers after coming over from Cleveland, but he has yet to make much of an impact beyond special teams.
While he's managed to cling to a roster spot the past two seasons, the Panthers' group of cornerbacks has never been this deep or competitive in camp.
The front office brought in several more talented cornerbacks this offseason, and Charles Godfrey's conversion from safety to corner could be just enough to bump Dockery off the roster.
Not helping matters is his inability to stay on the field. Last season, he played in just five games because a broken thumb in the preseason kept him out until Week 4, and five weeks later, a torn labrum put him on the injured reserve.
The Panthers can't afford to waste roster spots on injury-prone players this season, and Dockery will be a viable cut because of that.
Mike McNeill, Tight End
Similar to the cornerback position, the Panthers are loaded with depth at tight end this season. The Panthers could keep up to five tight ends, but if they don't, McNeill could be the odd man out.
The Panthers will mix in more two-tight end sets this season, but that will mainly justify the inclusion of a player like Brandon Williams, who will be a weapon in the passing game.
One could argue that the Panthers will need a blocking-oriented tight end to replace what departed veteran Ben Hartsock did for the team in recent years, but newcomer Ed Dickson is a solid blocker, Williams was impressive in OTAs and minicamp, and Richie Brockel splits time as the team's fullback, so there may just not be enough space for McNeill.
Kealoha Pilares, Receiver
Pilares is now in his fourth season with the Panthers but has been unable to make much of an impact because of persistent injuries.
In his rookie season, he saw the field sparingly in a designated special teams role, but in his second season, he began to see some snaps on offense and became the main kick returner.
By midseason, however, Pilares injured his right shoulder and was placed on season-ending injured reserve.
If Pilares wants to make the team, he'll have to prove that he can assume both kick and punt return duties, because the team won't keep a designated returner unless he can do both and do them well.
The reason Pilares won't make the team as a pure receiver is simply a numbers game; the team has three solid veterans, a first-round rookie and several talented youngsters all vying for five to six roster spots.
Tiquan Underwood, Receiver
This would be the biggest shock of all the cuts. Underwood was brought in this offseason as a potential deep-threat replacement for Ted Ginn Jr., but he hasn't shown the same explosiveness as Ginn during training camp and hasn't had the most consistent hands of the group, either.
What Underwood does have working for him is experience; he is one of just three players on the roster with more than 1,000 career receiving yards, and he has compiled 865 yards and six touchdowns over the past two seasons.
While these numbers aren't particularly impressive, he had been a part of a lackluster Tampa Bay offense, and his opportunities were therefore fairly limited.
While I still lean toward including Underwood on the final 53-man roster, don't count him out as a potential cut. He has very little guaranteed money on his contract, and the team could save nearly $2 million over the next two years by releasing him.
Joe Webb, Quarterback
Webb is the most likely veteran to be cut for several reasons. General manager Dave Gettleman tends to keep only two quarterbacks on the roster, and Derek Anderson and Cam Newton are ahead of him. Webb also isn't much of a pure passer, and it seems that the team only signed him to simulate what Newton could do while he was sidelined during the offseason due to knee surgery.
He remains a run-first quarterback, and if he does find a job elsewhere, it could be as a receiver. Perhaps if he joined the league a few seasons earlier, he could have been a part of a Wildcat scheme, but with that fad now in the past, Webb has few options left but to switch positions.