On Thursday, the Panthers noted that they may only keep 2 Quarterbacks on the roster, and they did just that, waiving former 4th round pick Stefan LeFors and undrafted free agent Brett Basenez.
"I think that's more indicative of how difficult our decisions were," Panthers GM Marty Hurney said early Saturday evening. "What you try to do is make decisions where you can keep as many guys as possible who will help you this year. Those guys certainly did everything we asked. It was just a case of numbers. This is the first time we've done this, but we just decided to go with two at this point."
Coach John Fox noted that it's something they thought about doing last season as well. "Other people have done it in the past," Fox said. "We're not the first ones to break this ground. Obviously, the plan is to bring somebody in on the practice squad, so we have someone on a daily basis who is familiar with our system. Knock on wood in case anything was to happen to (Jake Delhomme and Chris Weinke), then we would have to make a roster move. Like Marty said, it was a decision that was made to keep some quality depth at other positions."
Some of that depth is at Tight End, where the Panthers elected to keep veterans Kris Mangum, Michael Gaines and Mike Seidman, as well as rookie 5th round pick Jeff King. Mangum has been battling a foot injury all summer long, but returned to action last Thursday when the Panthers visited the Steelers. With the Panthers only keeping two Quarterbacks, Fox said that Mangum would likely serve as the emergency Quarterback if starter Jake Delhomme and backup Chris Weinke were injured.
"I think Mangy (Kris Mangum) could probably get up under center," stated Fox. "I'm not sure what our two-minute drill would look like."
However, that's not the only reason the Panthers selected to keep four Tight Ends on the roster. "We only have one fullback on the squad, and our tight ends can be used there," Fox explained. "They're interchangeable positions. That was more of a factor in keeping four tight ends."
The Panthers chose to cut promising backup Fullback Casey Cramer, instead keeping last year's 2nd round pick Eric Shelton, who some have speculated would be cut for weeks. In the Panthers' offense, the Tight End and the Fullback have the same responsibilities in many sets, negating the need to duplicate talent.
Shelton must have showed the Panthers' staff something on Thursday evening that changed their minds. Earlier in the week, Offensive Coordinator Dan Henning was interviewed by Charles Chandler the Charlotte Observer, and sounded as if Shelton's cutting was all but a formality. "He does not show the types of abilities, and hasn't since he's been here, to be that back who can be an every-down back or even a third-down back," Henning told the Observer last week. "We go by what we see and you have to give the opportunity to the people you think are going to be playing."
That was before Shelton's 44 yard, 10 carry performance on Thursday night, when Shelton displayed all the abilities one would want in a back of his size during his first real opportunity this season.
On Saturday night, Fox contradicted what Henning had told the Observer a few days earlier.
"He's a powerful guy who can move the pile," Fox said of Shelton. "Down the road if anything were to happen to the people in front of him, that's a positive trait."
Another area of depth is along the defensive line, where the team chose to keep 10 Defensive Linemen; 4 Ends and 6 Tackles. Promising 2nd year End Jovan Haye was cut in favor of 2006 7th round draft pick Stanley McClover out of Auburn. Other linemen that didn't make the cut included Lorenzo Alexander and 2005 3rd round pick Attiyah Ellison, who was cut last year but bounced around the practice squad and active roster all season long.
"Obviously, there were some very difficult decisions.," Hurney said. "They were good problems to have, but on a day like this it's extremely difficult because the decisions are very important to your football team, and we had a lot of tough ones and had to release some very good football players."
"That's always hard to do."
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