CHARLOTTE – We don't have all the answers, but training camp answered some questions.
"I think the future for this team is bright," head coach Ron Rivera said after camp concluded Tuesday. "It's heading in the right direction.
"But you won't know until you start playing."
After three weeks at Wofford College in Spartanburg, S.C., the Panthers have a better sense of who can be counted on to determine those outcomes.
And as much as training camp is about coming together, separation plays an equally important role in shaping a team's identity.
Leaders separate themselves from the pack. Starters separate themselves in position battles.
Here's a rundown of some training camp takeaways.
CAM LEADING: More experience has seemingly brought out more leadership in quarterback
"I really like how Cam is really starting to step up and exhibit that leadership that you're looking for from your quarterback when he's on the field," Rivera said. "He's still growing, he's still maturing, but he did a lot of good things in this camp."
Teammates say Newton's been more vocal and more confident as he enters his third season.
Newton said he's just doing his job as a teammate.
"Everybody has a microphone on this team, and I think that's what makes this team very unique," he said. "We have our key leaders that people look to for leadership, but at times, anybody can motivate."
You can bet Newton will be one of the key leaders the Panthers look to in 2013.
RECEIVERS RISING: Fourth-year wide receiver
"Armanti has really surprised us," Rivera said.
Before a hamstring injury kept him from practicing in the final days of camp, Edwards consistently made plays.
The fluidity of his routes was noticeable. So was the increased confidence.
"Armanti has been pushing me the most," LaFell said. "Every time I go out there and make a play, he'll come back and make a play and everybody will forget about what I did.
"The way he's made strides over these four years – it's great to see him come into his own."
The same could be said for LaFell, who had a productive camp and continues to improve as the No. 2 receiver behind
SAFETIES SETTLING: The battle for the starting strong safety job was a major storyline heading into camp, and one player appears to have taken hold of it.
Mitchell brings a physical presence to the defensive backfield. He constantly mixed it up with members of the offense, playing right on the edge. The Panthers secondary can benefit and feed off that intensity.
And Mitchell is forming a solid partnership with free safety
O-LINE QUESTIONS: It was a surprise to see veteran lineman Geoff Hangartner released during training camp.
"I like to think we're answering the question at right guard," Rivera said. "Garry Williams has done a great job."
Injuries hit the offensive line hard in camp. Tackle
Because of those injuries, depth could be a concern, but Rivera has been encouraged with what he's seen from recently converted defensive lineman
FRONT 7 GOOD AS ADVERTISED: We knew that coming in, and training camp further solidified the notion.
How good can this defense be when
Hopefully, we'll find out soon.