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Carolina Panthers Position Analysis: Special Teams

The Carolina Panthers had one of the better place kickers in the league last year with Graham Gano, who returns for his fourth season. The questions now lie at punter though entering the 2016 season. Brandon Croce breaks down the special teams unit for the Carolina Panthers.

Carolina Panthers Special Teams

Name Position Height Weight College
J.J. Jansen LS 6-2 240 Notre Dame
Graham Gano K 6-2 205 Florida State
Mike Scifres P 6-2 215 Western Illinois
Swayze Waters P 6-0 185 UAB

Training Camp Battles

Mike Scifres vs. Swayze Waters

One of the few free agents the Panthers lost this offseason was punter Brad Nortman, who signed as a free agent with the Jacksonville Jaguars. The team started out looking at two punters to replace him by signing Swayze Waters and Michael Palardy but neither had played a single snap during an NFL regular season game.

The team then brought in veteran Mike Scifres, who was released by the San Diego Chargers earlier in the offseason and released Palardy. This now sets up the training camp battle between the younger, inexperienced Waters and the veteran Scifres.

Waters, who is 29 years of age, has bounced around after college. He has spent time with the Detroit Lions, the Oakland Raiders and the Pittsburgh Steelers and most recently played in the CFL for the Edmonton Eskimos and the Toronto Argonauts. He will need to have a strong training camp if he hopes to have his first shot to play in an NFL regular season game.

Scifres, meanwhile is 35 years old but is not showing any signs of slowing down. He is coming off a season that is right in line with his career numbers, averaging 45.3 yards per punt last year (career average 45.2 yards per punt). If Scifres is able to show that his skills have not diminished, he should be considered the favorite for the job.

Player to Watch

Graham Gano

Graham Gano is coming off one of his best seasons and finished with a career high 146 points. He made key field goals late in games to help the Panthers win 15 regular season games, including the game winner in overtime against the Indianapolis Colts and the winning field goal in the closing seconds against the New York Giants.

However, one thing that hasn't been discussed much this offseason is that with the loss of Nortman, Gano loses his holder on field goals. This is something that is rarely talked about but it is a pivotal job. It will take practice and repetitions for Gano and long snapper J.J. Jansen to get into a rhythm so it would be beneficial if the Panthers are able to identify their punter early in training camp. 

Twitter @BrandonCroce

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