One player on the Carolina Panthers who had an excellent training camp was Devin Funchess. The top storyline at the beginning of training camp was the return of Kelvin Benjamin but the second-year pass catcher stole the show once practices began.
Charlotte Observer's Joseph Person wrote recently about Funchess:
Funchess continually got behind the first-team secondary and hauled in bombs from Newton. Then he’d come out the next day and do it again.
The biggest positive though was that he continued to show this improvement in the first preseason game against the Baltimore Ravens with a beautiful 10-yard touchdown grab along the sideline.
The former Michigan Wolverine will need to continue this performance through the remaining three preseason games but based on what he has done over the past few weeks, 2016 could be a big year for him.
Mike Remmers is now a few months removed from one of his worst performances as a Panther, which unfortunately happened on the biggest stage, Super Bowl 50. Well, he appears to have risen to the challenge and not only held onto his starting job but appears to be a better player.
Ron Rivera gave Remmers some high praise after practice on Monday and he appears set to make his 27th straight start at the right tackle position. This is the second longest streak among Panthers' offensive linemen and while he has not been flashy, he has done a good job solidifying the position.
Prior to Remmers getting the job Week 13 in the 2014 season, the right tackle position was a weak spot as Nate Chandler struggled in the role. The way Remmers has played over the past year and half has been a key reason for the improved play by the entire offensive line.
The Carolina Panthers coaching staff had to be hoping to find a running back to help Jonathan Stewart carry the rushing load in 2016 and that appears to be Cameron Artis-Payne. The second-year back had a quiet rookie season, due in large part to Stewart being the primary back. However, Stewart is a year older and it would make sense to give 5-10 touches per game to another back to try and keep him fresher throughout the season.
Rivera said earlier in training camp, and this could be the key to more playing time, that Artis-Payne has improved his pass blocking. "[Artis-Payne] has done a nice job in pass protection. I don't know if it has so much he has gained weight as it is when you watch him, he is keeping his weight down and moving his feet. He is not lunging and putting his head down."
It still isn't a guarantee that Damiere Byrd is going to make the 53-man roster but the wide receiver has done everything in his power to grab one of the spots. Byrd has exceptional speed, which has been on display both as a receiver and as a return man. Against the Ravens, Byrd had one catch for 35 yards and 78 kickoff return yards, including a 48-yard return.
The wide receiver position is one of the most competitive and there are easily six or seven players that are good enough to make the final roster. Byrd is one of those players firmly in the mix for one of the final spots but will need to put together strong performances over the remaining preseason games to solidify that spot.
One player who has been a bit of a disappointment through training camp was first-round draft pick Vernon Butler. There is no question that Butler has all the physical attributes to be a disruptive force in the middle of this Panthers' defensive line but it may take a little longer for him to develop and be a regular contributor.
In the early portions of training camp, Rivera said that Butler was "certainly a work in progress."
This isn't necessarily a bad thing for Butler or the Panthers. This defense has incredible depth at the tackle position behind Star Lotulelei and Kawann Short with Paul Soliai and Kyle Love. The coaching staff won't need to rush Butler out there if he is not ready and can give him as much time to develop as needed.
The stock for Bene Benwikere is a tough one to gauge but based on expectations entering training camp, the stock for the veteran cornerback has certainly dropped. Earlier in the offseason, Benwikere was expected to be the starting outside cornerback for this defense and essentially try to fill the void left by Josh Norman.
However, that changed by the time Benwikere was cleared to return to practice from the broken leg he suffered in the regular season last year. The team has gotten strong performances from rookies James Bradberry and Daryl Worley on the outside and this means Benwikere would move inside to nickel.
This isn't necessarily a bad thing for the defense as Benwikere, in my opinion, is better suited for that position. The Panthers spend a majority of their time in the nickel defense so this should help them in the long run. This would probably be a disappointment for Benwikere though as he tries to prove he can be an every-down cornerback and able to play on the outside.