Coming Up

News

Print
RSS

Strickly Panthers: Unofficial depth chart

Posted Jun 19, 2017

Senior writer Bryan Strickland shares some deep thoughts on how each position stacks up heading into the summer.

Every August in the days leading up to the Panthers' preseason opener, the team releases its first unofficial depth chart of the year. Months before that, fans formulate a working depth chart of sorts in their heads.

So much can and will happen between now and Carolina's regular season opener in nearly three months, but here's a look at where things at least appear to be heading.

QUARTERBACK
Cam Newton, Derek Anderson

Newton didn't throw a single incompletion during the offseason workout program that just wrapped up. That will change once he's cleared to throw coming off shoulder surgery, but this pecking order will not.

RUNNING BACK
Jonathan Stewart, Christian McCaffrey

Lots of chatter surrounds the Panthers' first-round draft choice, but Stewart is still a bread-and-butter option for the run game. Fozzy Whittaker set an unofficial record for receptions by a running back during OTAs when McCaffrey wasn't around. Don't forget about fullback, where new veteran Darrel Young and rookie Alex Armah reside.

WIDE RECEIVER
Kelvin Benjamin, Devin Funchess, Russell Shepard, Curtis Samuel

This position never seems to lack in drama, though the starting spots seem secure with Benjamin and Funchess. Three receiver sets could feature a rising veteran in Shepard at first or rapid rookie Samuel. There's intrigue down the line, too: With Brenton Bersin injured, Damiere Byrd is the next returning receiver deserving of mention, and undrafted rookie Fred Ross (among others) enjoyed a strong offseason.

TIGHT END
Greg Olsen, Ed Dickson

Sometimes no drama is good. Olsen is as good as they come, and Dickson is a reliable backup. The third spot could go to Scott Simonson or Chris Manhertz.

LEFT TACKLE
Matt Kalil, Taylor Moton

The Panthers' biggest free agent signing will be ready to roll from Day One in the spot previously held by Michael Oher. Rookie Taylor Moton appears to be quickly learning the pro game and the left side.

LEFT GUARD
Andrew Norwell, Amini Silatolu

Norwell has been rock-solid since taking over midway through his rookie year in 2014 for Silatolu, who is back after being out of football during the 2016 regular season. Silatolu started 28 games at guard for Carolina from 2012-15.

CENTER
Ryan Kalil, Gino Gradkowski

Kalil is invaluable, but the depth behind him holds value. Both Kalil and the veteran Gradkowski are coming off injuries that opened the door for Tyler Larsen to show last season that he's plenty capable of stepping in as well.

RIGHT GUARD
Trai Turner, Chris Scott

While Turner is among the best young guards in the business, Scott is a proven and versatile veteran. The Panthers also like what David Yankey can offer.

RIGHT TACKLE
Daryl Williams, Taylor Moton

Williams responded well to the opportunity to start at right tackle last season. The wild card is Oher, who hasn't practiced since entering the concussion protocol early last season.

DEFENSIVE END
Julius Peppers, Charles Johnson, Mario Addison, Wes Horton

The positon now features the Panthers' two all-time sack leaders with the return of Peppers, and Addison was the team's sack leader in 2016 and is trending up when it comes to snaps. Horton, a noted run stopper, actually started in front of Addison down the stretch last season.

DEFENSIVE TACKLE
Kawann Short, Star Lotulelei, Vernon Butler, Kyle Love

Short and Lotulelei have been tone-setters for the defensive line since being drafted in 2013, but this group leans on the strength of its rotation as well. Butler could be poised for a breakout season, and Love is the most veteran player of the group and a valuable one at that.

LINEBACKER
Luke Kuechly, Thomas Davis, Shaq Thompson, David Mayo

A truly special group headed by Kuechly and Davis, with Thompson showing signs of earning an expanded role. Mayo is ready to step into the role previously held by A.J. Klein (now with the Saints) as linebacker of all trades, and second-year players Jeremy Cash and Jared Norris could be in line for more chances.

CORNERBACK
James Bradberry, Daryl Worley, Captain Munnerlyn

Bradberry and Worley learned together on the job as rookies and are ready to pick up where they left off. Captain Munnerlyn is back to stabilize the crucial nickel spot and can contribute on the outside. Same goes for rookie Corn Elder.

SAFETY
Kurt Coleman, Mike Adams, Dean Marlowe, Colin Jones

The Panthers should be plenty comfortable with their starters but have to hope their backups step up when called upon. Marlowe didn't play much as a rookie and played even less in 2016 because of an injury. Jones is a special teams standout who has logged some quality snaps on defense in a pinch.

KICKER
Graham Gano, Harrison Butker

Butker is the first kicker drafted in team history and was picked to push Gano, the team's kicker since 2012. Gano looked good in the offseason coming off foot surgery; so did Butker.

PUNTER
Andy Lee, Michael Palardy

Lee's big leg shined before a hamstring injury sidelined him the second half of last season. Parlady arguably exceeded expectations filling in. Whoever is kicking or punting, J.J. Jansen consistently performs at long snapper.

RETURNERS
Christian McCaffrey, Curtis Samuel

The dynamic rookies could have the chance to get involved via the kicking game, specifically McCaffrey on punts and Samuel on kickoffs. Damiere Byrd showed last year in preseason play that he can contribute in both spots.