Quarterback: Cam Newton
Newton is last year's Heisman Trophy winner and was chosen No. 1 overall in this year's draft. Through the first three games of his career he's thrown for 1,102 yards, good for third-most in the league, and leads his team in rushing. He's a potent weapon who is poised in the pocket and has a big arm, while also possessing the ability to beat opposing defenses with his legs. Newton is Carolina's biggest weapon and can potentially carry that offense if needed. He's one of the most-electrifying rookies this league has seen in many years and will be the face of the Panther's franchise for many seasons to come.
Running back: DeAngelo Williams, Jonathan Stewart, Jerome Felton
Williams signed a hefty free agent contract to stay with Carolina this offseason. He has rewarded the team with 2.3 yards per carry this year. He hasn't shown the burst he did the past few seasons and isn't breaking tackles. At 29-years-old, some are wondering aloud if his best days are behind him. Stewart, on the other hand, appears ready to take over as the lead back. Yet offensive coordinator Rob Chudzinski says the time-share between the backs will continue. The rushing game has been so anemic to this point, that Newton actually leads both Thomas and Williams in rushing yards. Felton is a solid lead blocker but is not a threat as a runner or pass catcher.
WR Steve Smith
Wide receiver: Steve Smith, Legedu Naanee, Brandon LaFell
Smith is by far Newton's favorite target. His 16 catches are more than the combined totals of Naanee and Lafell, the only other Panthers wideouts to have caught a pass this year. Smith's 31 targets are 11 more than TE Greg Olsen, who is second on the team in looks. Smith has racked up 349 receiving yards on the season, third-most in the NFL. Lafell and Naanee are going to catch a pass every once in a while, but Smith is really the only receiver opposing defenses need to worry about.
Tight ends: Greg Olsen, Jeremy Shockey
Olsen and Shockey have been effective as a tandem. They have combined for 21 catches and 306 yards through the first three contests. Last week, Olsen caught the game-winning touchdown in the fourth quarter to beat the Jacksonville Jaguars. Olsen has more speed but both are athletic, experienced tight ends that can work the middle of the field. Newton uses these two as his dual-layered security blanket and will continue to do so all season.
Offensive line: LT Jordan Gross, LG Travelle Wharton, C Ryan Kalil, RG Geoff Hangartner, RT Jeff Otah
Gross and Kalil are Pro Bowlers who serves as the foundation of this group. Kalil is a rock in the middle and Gross does a good job protecting the blind side. Wharton has been a starter in Carolina the past eight seasons. He's an underrated player who is solid as both a run and pass blocker. Otah is a former first-round draft pick who has dealt with numerous injuries throughout his career and missed all of last season with knee problems. He missed some practice this week with back soreness is currently listed as questionable. If he can't play, the team will turn to rookie Lee Ziemba. The Panthers are weak at right guard. The team signed Hangartner after he was released by the Bills this offseason and immediately inserted him as a starter. He's an experienced player but isn't outstanding in any phase of the game.
Defensive line: LDE Charles Johnson, NT Sione Fua, DT Terrell McClain, RDE Greg Hardy
Hardy and Johnson have five sacks combined so far this season. No other player on the defense has earned a sack. Hardy is third on the team in tackles and has a pass deflection as well as a forced fumble. Johnson has been disruptive in the backfield and already has two tackles for loss. Both are quality players. Defensive tackle is where Carolina has its biggest issues. Fua and McClain are both rookies and neither has played well so far. They have seven total tackles between them and zero sacks. They haven't been able to get penetration and have been getting blown off the ball in the run game. The coaches will rotate in Andre Neblett and Ronald Fields at tackle but neither has done anything of note.
LB James Anderson
Linebackers: OLB Jason Williams, MLB Dan Connor, OLB James Anderson
The Panthers have been hard hit by injuries at the linebacker position. Three-time Pro Bowler Jon Beason is out for the season, as is starter Thomas Davis. Anderson is the only original starter left and he's played well up to this point. He leads the team in tackles and can be difficult to contain when trying to run the ball. Williams is a Chicago native who missed most of last season with an ACL tear. He's fully recovered now. He's stout against the run but has issues in coverage. Connor is a career backup.
Secondary: LCB Chris Gamble, RCB Captain Munnerlyn, FS Charles Godfrey, SS Sherrod Martin – CB Darius Butler, CB R.J. Stanford
Gamble is listed as doubtful with a concussion and most likely will not play. Butler will start in his place. The Patriots cut the third-year player this offseason and Carolina snatched him up. He's not a ball hawk and is not strong in run support. Munnerlyn is the full-time starter for the first time in his three-year career. He's an average corner. Martin is the best player in Carolina's secondary. He has good range on the back end and isn't afraid to stick in his nose in run support. He picked off Jacksonville QB Blaine Gabbert last week for the team's only interception so far. Godfrey, in his fourth year, is the elder statesman of the group. He has a good eye for the ball, intercepting five passes last season, and is solid against the run.
K Olindo Mare, P Jason Baker, KOR Mike Goodson, PR Armanti Edwards
Mare is in his 15th NFL season. He's hit every field goal so far this year, although his longest attempt has been from 35 yards. The big leg he had earlier in his career is gone though. Baker has a weak leg – he's 30th in the league in punting average – but he has good accuracy. He's already dropped five balls inside the opponent's 20-yard line. Goodson and Edwards have been contained well so far this year. Neither player is a game breaker.
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Jeremy Stoltz is Publisher of BearReport.com and a member of the Pro Football Writers of America. To read him every day, visit BearReport.com and become a Chicago Bears insider.