Who Will be the Starting Punter?
This is probably the biggest question for the Carolina Panthers and the one they are farthest away from an answer. The team has been trying to replace Brad Nortman and signed their fourth punter this offseason with the addition of Kasey Redfern and released Swayze Waters.
The Panthers will now have a two-man competition over the next three preseason games between Redfern and veteran Mike Scifres. The problem is that Scifres has been dealing with some lingering injuries and hasn't really been able to fully go during training camp.
Redfern played for the Jacksonville Jaguars the past two preseasons, averaging over 46 yards per punt, has never made it to a regular season roster.
The winner of this competition, may come down to one thing: directional punting. New special teams coordinator Thomas McGaughey on Monday said that directional punting is a major factor in what they do because it cuts down the field and hopefully contains opposing returners.
Which Wide Receivers Will Make the Roster?
The wide receiver position has been highly competitive and right now there is only three players who are locks at the position with Kelvin Benjamin, Ted Ginn Jr. and Devin Funchess. After this group, Philly Brown, who is entering his third season, has to also be confident in his spot on this 53-man roster.
However, after these four there is a great deal of uncertainty and one of the reasons is because it remains to be seen if the team will keep five or six wide receivers. The fact that Benjamin is coming off an ACL injury and the team is trying to be cautious with him, makes me think they will go with six. This obviously will help some of the wide receivers on the bubble.
Based on performances this offseason and training camp, there are three wide receivers who have made a strong case for those final spots: Brenton Bersin, Kevin Norwood and Damiere Byrd. In this group, Bersin has the most experience and was the leading wide receiver in the first preseason game against the Baltimore Ravens. Bersin though did suffer a rib injury in that game and this could present an opportunity for Norwood and Byrd to receive some additional reps in the upcoming preseason games if Bersin is not able to play.
Who Will Round out the Defensive End Position?
The starters are set at the defensive end position with Charles Johnson and Kony Ealy with Mario Addison the first player off the bench to rotate in during the course of a game. However, after that the depth chart is unclear and this gives some players an opportunity to earn a roster spot.
In the Panthers' first unofficial depth chart, the next player listed was Wes Horton, a player who at one time started for this defense, but was suspended four games last year due to violating the NFL's performance enhancing drug policy. The Panthers then released him after his suspension but eventually re-signed him to their practice squad. Horton has had a strong camp and has probably kept that spot on the depth chart.
This doesn't mean that is set in stone and he will have some competition over the next few weeks. Ryan Delaire is one player who comes to mind, who had two sacks in his first game with the Panthers last season, but saw his production drop. This could have been due to a torn labrum, which he told Charlotte Observer's Jonathan Jones that he played most of the year with.
He is probably the toughest competition for one of those final spots on the defensive end depth chart but other names to watch is Rakim Cox, Larry Webster and Arthur Miley. However, Cox and Webster have been dealing with injuries that have kept them off the practice field and if they want to earn a spot they will need to get back soon.