Final Auditions

Several Carolina Panthers players will use Sunday's game in Atlanta as a final audition for next season. Whether pushing for a starting job or just another roster invite, these four players have a lot to play for against the division-leading Falcons.

QB Jimmy Claussen

Be it Stanford QB Andrew Luck or a veteran pick-up, it would be a difficult pill for Panthers fans to swallow if someone other than Claussen isn't under center when the 2011 season begins. While he has shown some improvement, the performances of fellow rookie QBs Sam Bradford and Colt McCoy have shown it's not unreasonable to expect more from a first-year signal caller.

Even Tim Tebow and Joe Webb (a converted receiver) have fans more optimistic about the futures of their respective teams. No one, except Armanti Edwards, will serve as a bigger reminder of the strain of the 2010 season. A solid performance and, dare I say, a win on Sunday would benefit Claussen in the eyes of coaches, fans, and most importantly, his teammates.

RB Jonathan Stewart


RB Jonathan Stewart
Chris Graythen/Getty
This is an interesting one. Owner Jerry Richardson has said, or written, actually, that the organization wants to keep its core players together. DeAngelo Williams is one of those core players, but he'll be 28 when he plays his next game. He also figures to get a pretty substantial pay increase, but it remains to be seen if the terms of the new collective bargaining agreement will hinder the Panthers from being the team to provide that increase.

If Williams stays, the Panthers will have one of the most talented backfields in the league with Stewart and the rising Mike Goodson sharing time with Williams. However, with so many holes to fill elsewhere, it's worth considering moving the younger Stewart while his value remains high and obtaining draft picks or other players. Either way, the performance Stewart puts on tape on Sunday will help solidify his chances for a pay increase of his own whether it's with the Panthers or someone else.

OT Garry Williams

Williams has been a rare bright spot for the Panthers. Filling in most of the season for the injured Jeff Otah, Williams has progressed into a solid starter and will provide the team with solid depth at the tackle position when Otah returns next season.

While some teams subscribe to the theory that a starter won't lose his job because of an injury, another solid performance on Sunday against the likes of John Abraham could make for an interesting position battle when training camp opens next season.

FB Rashawn Jackson

When starting FB Tony Fiammetta suffered a high ankle sprain, the Panthers promoted Jackson from the practice squad. Last week's loss at Pittsburgh served as the rookie's NFL debut, and while the tight ends saw time at the fullback position, Jackson did see the field. With Fiammetta still hobbled, Sunday's contest should give Jackson an opportunity to introduce his abilities to the league.



Who else is auditioning for jobs in 2011? Talk about it inside the message boards.




Michael Stolp is a graduate of Wilkes University with a degree in Communications. He grew up in Piscataway, N.J., and recently relocated to Charlotte, NC. To follow his personal blog, click here.


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