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Early Look at Offseason Position Battles for Carolina Panthers

The roster is pretty much set for the Carolina Panthers and now is the time to take a look at potential position battles that could take place over the next few months.

Cornerback

Robert McClain vs. Daryl Worley vs. James Bradberry

The most publicized training camp battle for the Carolina Panthers is sure to be cornerback and who will replace Josh Norman.

The front office added plenty of competition to the battle drafting three cornerbacks this past weekend in the NFL Draft. However, I believe Zack Sanchez is more suited to be a nickelback so that will leave their second round pick Bradberry and third round pick Worley.

In addition to the two rookies, the Panthers' starting cornerback from the playoffs and Super Bowl 50, Robert McClain, is back and shouldn't be counted out just yet. He was signed late in the season to replace Charles Tillman and had a decent stretch of games for this defense.

Prediction: Right now I believe McClain has to be the favorite due to his experience playing in this defense from a season ago. However, it wouldn't be a surprise to see one of these two rookies leap him in the depth chart.

Punter

Swayze Waters vs. Michael Palardy

The other biggest question the Panthers will need to address this offseason is who will replace Brad Nortman as the starting punter. The team currently has two punters on the roster in Swayze Waters and Michael Palardy.

Waters played college football for UAB and spent time with the Detroit LionsOakland Raiders and Pittsburgh Steelers however has yet to play in a regular season game. He has spent the past three years in the CFL before signing with the Panthers in February.

Palardy meanwhile played at the University of Tennessee before spending time with the Oakland Raiders and the Rams before playing one game in 2015 in the CFL. He actually filled in for the injured Waters during that game.

Prediction: This is probably the one battle that has the most uncertainty because there is the least information on these two players. At this point it would be a complete guess so I won't make a prediction on the winner here.

Safety

Dean Marlowe vs. Tre Boston

This is another interesting battle for the Panthers because there is a number of moving parts. The reason is that Marlowe is more of a strong safety and Boston fits the role of a free safety better.

Luckily for this defense, Kurt Coleman has experience playing both positions and would be able to play either in 2016. If the team believes Marlowe is the better player, Coleman could stay in his role as free safety, where he saw great success with seven interceptions last year.

If the plan is to get Boston on the field, then Coleman would switch over to strong safety which would allow Boston to play free safety. He started for this defense at the position as a rookie in the closing weeks of 2014 and played well.

Prediction: Tre Boston should win the job here because that would give this defense what should be the most talented combination of safeties on the roster. The determining factor could be if the coaching staff is hesitant to move Coleman to strong safety, which would favor Marlowe.

Right Tackle

Mike Remmers vs. Daryl Williams

This is one battle that was expected to happen this time last season as Williams was expected to push Remmers for the starting job. However, Williams suffered an injury early in his rookie season and this allowed Remmers to put a tight grip on the starting job.

A season later, and after a lackluster performance in Super Bowl 50 by Remmers, this should be the most hotly contested training camp battle. The Panthers added Remmers to the starting lineup after their bye week in the 2014 season and he has now started 26 straight games at right tackle.

One of the reasons Williams was considered to have a good shot to earn the starting job is that he is a relentless run blocker and would be an improvement over Remmers in this area. However, his pass protection still had room for improvement and the hope is that it has over his rookie season.

Prediction: This is one position that the offense would benefit from a change and Williams will be able to earn the starting job at right tackle. That's not necessarily a knock on Remmers but he will now be able to backup both tackle positions as well as center for this team.

Wide Receiver

Devin Funchess vs. Brenton Bersin vs. Kevin Norwood

The other position that will need to be address is which player will step up as the team's third wide receiver with Jerricho Cotchery no longer on the roster. The coaching staff is sure to have options here as well.

The Panthers will be welcoming back the injured Kelvin Benjamin to the starting lineup and if they elect to keep Ted Ginn Jr. on the outside opposite Benjamin, this would allow Funchess to slide inside. During training camp last year, the Panthers were moving Funchess and lining him up at different spots in the formation. 

The biggest concern with Funchess was always the dropped passes and he will need to prove this issue is behind him to become that possession wide receiver.

After him are two players who could be not only fitting for a starting spot but also a spot on the 53-man roster. Bersin has spent the better part of two seasons bouncing between the active roster and the practice squad. This could end up being a make or break offseason for him.

The other interesting player would be Kevin Norwood, who the Panthers traded for last offseason after Benjamin's injury. However, he struggled to get onto the field and only had one target all year. He may have the biggest hill to climb but if he reaches his potential could have a major impact on this offense in 2016.

Prediction: There is no question that the top three wide receivers on the Panthers roster are Benjamin, Ginn and Funchess. However, the dropped passes could hurt Funchess and his playing time. Bersin has shown, especially last year, to be a reliable pass catcher and one that makes the plays when his number is called. This is a tough one to call but at this point I would have to side with the player with the most upside and that would be Devin Funchess.

Twitter @BrandonCroce

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