Devin Funchess Continues to Shine
The one major bright spot for the Carolina Panthers was former second round pick, Devin Funchess. The former Michigan Wolverine is arguably the most improved player on the Panthers this offseason and entering the third preseason game, Funchess had three receptions for 29 yards and one touchdown.
Against the Patriots, Funchess led the Panthers receivers and finished the game with five receptions for 49 yards on 10 targets (which was the most on the team).
This a great sign for a player who is looking to build off a strong finish to his rookie season. In the first seven games last year, Funchess only had seven receptions and 90 receiving yards but something clicked down the stretch. In the final 12 games, including the playoffs, Funchess had six touchdowns with his best game coming in Week 17 against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers when he had seven receptions, 120 yards and one touchdown.
The combination of Funchess' improvement as a wide receiver, plus the return of Kelvin Benjamin and the attention he warrants from opposing defenses, gives him an excellent chance at a breakout season in 2016.
Panthers Should Be Concerned About the Punter Position
This right now has the be the most glaring hole for the Carolina Panthers and one that could present major problems this year. The team lost Brad Nortman in the offseason to free agency and since then have signed four punters. The first two, Swayze Waters and Michael Palardy, are no longer on the roster and have been replaced with Mike Scifres and Kasey Redfern.
Now the favorite would have to be considered to be Scifres. He is a 14-year veteran, who has played at a high level for a number of years, but the problem is that he is not able to get on the field for regular playing time. This game against the Patriots was the first game he was able to see game action, and after one punt, was forced out of the game due to a knee injury.
If Scifres is not able to get healthy and give the coaching staff a real chance to evaluate him, they may have no choice but to go with the inexperienced Redfern, who has yet to play in an NFL game. Against the Patriots, Redfern was on the field plenty and made seven punts for 349 yards, including a 61-yard punt.
The regular season is less than two weeks away, and this doesn't give the Panthers much time before they have to make a decision.
Safety Position Needs Depth
The safety position is not as dire as the punter but the Panthers are one injury away from big problems. The starters for this group are set with Kurt Coleman and Tre Boston but they are truly lacking any kind of depth after them. Dean Marlowe, who was expected to be the backup strong safety, continues to miss practice and games due to a hamstring injury. Trenton Robinson, who was signed as free agent, is out for the season after surgery to repair a torn pectoral.
The position is so depleted at this point, that the coaching staff plugged Brian Blechen, a linebacker for the Panthers, in at strong safety towards the end of the game.
Now the front office knows this is an issue, and according to a report by Ian Rapoport of NFL Network, the team has brought in veteran Donte Whitner for a workout this weekend. Chris Wesseling also reported that Stevie Brown would be joining him for a workout.
One thing is clear though and that is the Panthers need to make a decision quickly because one, or both, will need to be up to speed as quickly as possible in case the need arises for them to step into the starting lineup.