The Battle for the final 53

So now the Panthers have cut down to 76, who will make the cut to 53? Who is left? We break it down, inside --

QB – Jake Delhomme, Chris Weinke, Stefan LeFors
Bubble – None
The Panthers cut bait, deciding to release Rod Rutherford a week earlier than they had originally planned, but the writing was on the wall for Rod when the Panthers drafted LeFors in the 4th round. He may end up on the practice squad.

RB – Stephen Davis, Deshaun Foster, Nick Goings, Eric Shelton
Bubble – Jamal Robertson, Rod Smart
One of the most intriguing questions is if the Panthers will find a way to keep Robertson, who has been outstanding in camp. Rod Smart hasn't played much at all in preseason, and has fallen behind Robertson on the RB depth chart. Both are decent special teams players, so play as a RB will be the deciding factor. Shelton has been a bit of a disappointment so far, but won't be cut because he's a 2nd rounder with potential. Goings becomes more valuable because he can play both FB and RB.

FB – Brad Hoover
Bubble – Casey Cramer
Cramer has a lot of potential, but the numbers game might not be in his favor. The fact that he can play TE/H-back is a plus though if the Panthers decide to part with project TE Michael Gaines.

TE – Kris Mangum, Mike Seidman
Bubble – Michael Gaines, Dan Curley
Gaines has been an enigma for the better part of a year. He shows flashes of talent then follows it up with terrible mental mistakes and inconsistent play. The Panthers may decide that Mangum and Seidman, supplemented with Cramer (who played TE in college) could be enough and part ways with Gaines, who could clear waivers and land on the practice squad. Dan Curley virtually has no chance to make the team.

WR – Steve Smith, Keary Colbert, Rod Gardner
Bubble – Ricky Proehl, Efrem Hill, Hugo Lira, Drew Carter, Aaron Boone, Karl Hankton
Some of the toughest cuts made on this team will be made here. Hill and Carter have potential, and it's possible that Thursday's game against the Steelers may push one over the edge. Hill has caught nearly everything thrown to him and also doubles as a kick returner. Carter has played well in practices, but has yet to fully display it when it matters. Proehl has a high cap value, is 37 years old and had to be coaxed out of retirement, but is a solid presence in the locker room and on the sidelines for the young group. Boone has looked good in limited playing time, but hasn't had much of a chance to showcase his skills. Hankton is the returning special teams captain, but has been battling a shoulder injury the last few weeks. Hugo Lira has no shot of making the team.

OL – T – Jordan Gross, Travelle Wharton; G – Mike Wahle, Tutan Reyes, Evan Mathis; C – Jeff Mitchell, Geoff Hangartner
Bubble – T – Ben Johnson, Dave Kadela, Matt Hill, John Doty, Todd Fordham; G – Tupe Peko, Joe Berger; C – None
The situation has pretty much settled itself. The Panthers figure to keep 8-9 Offensive linemen, which means probably keeping Fordham and Berger from the bubble list. Hangartner and Mathis have experience playing other positions, and have loads of potential, unlike most of the back-up linemen that have come through Carolina in the last few years. Peko has a lot of potential, but the Panthers seem to like their draft picks more at this point. The core of Berger, Hangartner and Mathis have been solid as the second team line. Maser isn't happy with Kadela's development, and Hill, Doty and Johnson have almost no shot of making the final roster.

P – None
Bubble – Tom Rouen, Jason Baker
Both Rouen and Baker have been decent in preseason, with Rouen taking the majority of the snaps. Rouen has consistency on his side, but is 10 years older than Jason Baker, who also can kick off. Is this the year that the Panthers decide to give Baker a chance or do they go with experience? We have no clue on this one.

K – John Kasay
Bubble – None
No camp battle for Kasay this year. His kickoffs have been ok, but they might keep Baker to kickoff to make sure Kasay's leg is fresh when they need it.

DL – E – Julius Peppers, Mike Rucker, Al Wallace; T – Kris Jenkins, Brentson Buckner, Kindal Moorehead, Atiyyah Ellison
Bubble – E – Jovan Haye, Isaac Hilton, Kemp Rasmussen; T – Charles Hill, Eddie Freeman, Lorenzo Alexander, Jordan Carstens
The Panthers figure to keep 8 defensive linemen at least, because they rotate them out so often. Kemp Rasmussen has the edge to keep his roster spot because he is an excellent special teams player and knows the system. Carstens was on the team last season, but his roster spot has been taken over by 3rd round pick Atiyyah Ellison by default. Haye seems to be the odd man out, as he's a draft pick with potential, but he's also a victim of the numbers game as well. He's a candidate for the practice squad if he clears waivers. Hill, Freeman, Alexander and Hilton have very little chance to make the final roster.

LB – Dan Morgan, Will Witherspoon, Chris Draft, Brandon Short, Jason Kyle
Bubble – Bryan Knight, Vinny Ciurciu, Sean Tufts, Adam Seward, Justin Smith
The Panthers generally keep 6 linebackers, with Ciurciu, Tufts and Seward fighting for 2 spots. Ciurciu is a utility linebacker and can play any of the 3 positions, plus special teams. The Panthers really like Tufts and Seward, and could find a way to keep both, since Dan Morgan has never played more than 12 games in a season. Kyle is the long snapper, and shouldn't really be considered a LB, but will make the team. Thomas Davis is also a question mark, but it seems that they have settled him in at SS. Knight and Smith figure to be cut.

CB – Ken Lucas, Chris Gamble, Ricky Manning
Bubble – Eddie Jackson, Marcus Floyd, Will Hampton, Dante Wesley
Jackson came on strong last season, the staff loves Hampton and Wesley has had a good preseason. The Panthers figure to keep at least 4 CBs, and Wesley's special teams prowess may secure his position. Floyd has little chance to beat out the other 3 bubble players for a roster spot.

S – Thomas Davis, Mike Minter, Marlon McCree, Idrees Bashir
Bubble – None
Emanuel has had a decent camp, but the fact that the team has settled Davis in at SS didn't bode well for the rookie. McCree has had a good preseason and Bashir is an experienced former starter. The Panthers probably will and try to sign Emanuel to the practice squad.

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