1. Find a running back rotation.
The most intriguing question for the Panthers entering camp will be
how Stephen Davis recovers from knee surgery. Davis missed all but two
games last season and needed microfracture surgery, forcing him to go
on injured reserve. He has begun running and hopes to practice with his
teammates near the start of training camp. It's likely the Panthers
will continue to bring Davis along slowly and he could receive limited
reps early in the regular season even if he looks healthy. That likely
means DeShaun Foster will get the bulk of carries this season, at least
early on. Foster, however, has also had trouble staying on the field,
finishing two of his three seasons in the league on injured reserve. The
Panthers drafted Eric Shelton from Louisville in the second round this
year because they believe he runs a lot like Davis and could be his
eventual successor as a power running back.
2. Establish continuity on the offensive line.
Once again the Panthers are faced with changes on the offensive
line. They believe they've solved their right tackle position by moving
Jordan Gross back to that spot, but the big question is whether or not
second-year player Travelle Wharton can handle Jake Delhomme's blind spot
at left tackle. Wharton started 11 games last season at left guard and
played well enough to show the coaches something. Wharton spent four
years at South Carolina playing left tackle, so he's no stranger to the
position. Mike Wahle represents a major free agent pickup and he will
stay at left guard for now. The only two players playing the same
position as last year will be center Jeff Mitchell and right guard Tutan Reyes. It took the Panthers about eight games last year to develop some
continuity on the offensive line. Once they found, Jake Delhomme was able
to light up opposing defenses and the Panthers won six of their final
eight games. The only potential change this year on the line is at right
guard where rookie Evan Mathis could challenge Reyes, who played
through injuries all of last season. Look for offensive line coach Mike Maser
to pick a starting five early and try to stick with it to develop some
3. Get off the field on third downs.
The Panthers have a strong front seven, but their secondary let them
down for the most part in 2004, especially early in last season.
Carolina opponents converted 46 percent on their third downs last year, the
worst mark in the NFC. That's why the Panthers felt the need to bring in
Ken Lucas, who got a $36 million contract. In so doing, Ricky Manning
Jr. will be shifted to a backup role as a nickel back. But Manning will
play an important role in the defense since three corners are regularly
used in today's NFL. The Panthers have also added safety Thomas Davis
in the first-round of the NFL draft and he should improve the overall
team speed on defense. Davis is likely to move from safety to linebacker
on third downs. Carolina's defensive line should take care of itself
and do its part on third downs, providing defensive end Mike Rucker is
able to elevate his game this year. The Panthers did do a great job of
forcing turnovers in the second half of '04, forcing a remarkable 29
turnovers in a seven-game stretch from Week 9 to Week 15. However, in the
final game of the regular season when the Panthers needed them the most,
they were unable to come with any turnovers and lost to the New Orleans Saints and missed a shot at the playoffs.
Goals for Training Camp
Panther Insider Top Stories
Bold Predictions for the Panthers in 2016The regular season is quickly approaching and with only one preseason game remaining, it means it is prediction time. These are four bold predictions for the Carolina Panthers for…
Panthers, Short Continue to Discuss ExtensionGeneral manager Dave Gettleman met with the media on Tuesday and said that contract negotiations with defensive tackle Kawann Short are still going on.
Panthers Trim the Roster With Round of CutsThe Carolina Panthers released four more players on Tuesday and placed Leonard Johnson on the reserve/non-football list to cut the team's roster to 74.
Updated Predictions for Panthers' Depth ChartThe Carolina Panthers have been active the past few days, releasing 11 players and trading for Andy Lee. The roster currently sits at 79 players and will need to get down to 53…