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Roster, defense shaping up

Posted Aug 14, 2012

Regarding wideouts and cornerbacks, we have a number of capable players in those positions on the roster. How many do you anticipate the Panthers will keep at each position on the final roster? – Nate in Winston-Salem, N.C.

With the Panthers only able to keep 53 of their 90 players on the final roster, things are tight at every position, and that appears to especially be the case at wide receiver and in the secondary. Teams typically carry six wide receivers and eight defensive backs, but there is a possibility of carrying one more.

If the Panthers feel like there are seven wide receivers and nine defensive backs that they simply can't afford to part ways with, the team could consider going with seven defensive linemen (which they did last season) and three tight ends to make room.

Still, it's doubtful that the Panthers would carry both seven wide receivers and nine defensive backs. Any way you slice it, it's going to be a tough decision.


Do you feel that with the return of Ron Edwards and our sophomore defensive tackles, our line will be solid and put Carolina in the top 10 defensively? I truly believe this will be a top 10 defense - if we stay healthy. – David in Bagram, Afghanistan

Edwards should provide a big presence – both literally and figuratively – and 2011 starters Terrell McClain and Sione Fua should be much improved entering their second season. Behind the line, it's hard to overstate the importance of Jon Beason's return, Thomas Davis' return and the addition of Luke Kuechly.

But a top 10 defense from No. 28? Well, NFC South blogger Pat Yasinskas of ESPN.com recently predicted the Panthers would have the top defense in the division.


When the players line up at the ball, there always seems to be someone on offense pointing at a defensive player, what's that all about? – Brad in High Point, N.C.

For this one, I went to a man who should know: former Panthers receiver Ricky Proehl, now the team's assistant wide receivers coach.

"First, the receivers are pointing toward the sideline to check with the ref that they're onside," Proehl said. "Then sometimes a receiver will point to say to his quarterback, ‘Hey, if this guy blitzes, I'm going to break off my route. It's so we're on the same page."

Quarterbacks often point to defensive players to help the linemen figure out their responsibilities in protection, and linemen do the same amongst themselves.


When a run or pass play has been called, how exact is the position wide receivers stand? – Glenn in Marion, N.C.

Again, I'll defer to Mr. Proehl, a member of four Super Bowl teams during his 17-year playing career.

"It isn't down to the inch - there is some leeway - but for the most part we've got to be in a certain place," Proehl said. "Whether it's the inside edge of the numbers or the outside edge of the numbers or three yards wide, it depends on the route concept. We can't just line up anywhere."


During the draft or free agency, does management ever ask players about others they played with or against? – Greg in Willow Spring, N.C.

During the rigorous interview process leading up to the draft, this is a common occurrence, especially at the NFL Scouting Combine.

"If you have a guy in the room that has some teammates here, you'll ask about them," general manager Marty Hurney said. "You'll ask an offensive lineman who's the best defensive lineman he went against. You try to get as much information in any way you can."


Why did the Panthers organization decide to not sign "big factor" players in free agency? – Abner, Wilkesboro, N.C.

It's because the Panthers made their big "free agent" splashes before the 2011 season when they re-signed Ryan Kalil, DeAngelo Williams, Charles Johnson, Charles Godfrey, James Anderson and Beason – all potential free agents after the season – to long-term contracts.

They continued by signing Steve Smith to a contract extension earlier in the offseason and doing the same with Jonathan Stewart just last week.

"This is the type of move you hope people remember in March," Hurney said. "If you do a good job of re-signing your own players, then you're not active in free agency."


Does Cam have any relationships with his teammates yet? I often see in interviews and videos/pictures of other teammates hanging out, but I do not see Cam with them. – Kevin in West Point, Utah

If you don't see Newton in those settings, it's probably because he's back to the grind. Every position in the NFL is demanding, but quarterback is on a whole other level as far as the amount of time that needs to be put in, especially for a young quarterback.

Newton is very much accepted by his teammates. From Day One, he hasn't acted like No. 1 - he's been one of the guys.


I am IMPRESSED with Ron Rivera as a coach and as a person. He has assembled a great support staff around him. What criteria did he use for selecting them? - Tommy in Asheville, N.C.

Rivera has leaned heavily on coaches he's worked with before, and who can blame him given the success his teams in Chicago, Philadelphia and San Diego enjoyed?

Just look at his two hires this offseason.

He hired Steve Wilkes as secondary/passing game coordinator. In 2010, when Rivera was defensive coordinator for the Chargers and Wilkes held a similar role, San Diego led the NFL in total defense.

Rivera also hired Richard Rodgers as assistant special teams coach. In 1983, Rodgers was special teams captain when California beat Stanford with "The Play." Rivera was a linebacker on that team.


Why has James Anderson not been getting the recognition from the local press that he has earned? It's hard to understand why the guy that holds the franchise tackle record and consecutive games record as a linebacker is the least one mentioned. – J. Anderson in Chesapeake, Va.

Hmmm…James Anderson played high school football in Chesapeake, Va., and we've got a question about him from a "J. Anderson" in Chesapeake?

Anderson is an underrated linebacker but certainly isn't underappreciated by the Panthers. He's been very productive in his two seasons as a full-time starter but can sometimes be forgotten from a publicity standpoint simply because Beason and Davis are former first-round draft picks who have been doing it for longer.


Bryan, just wanted to send a quick note and let you know that the Panther fans here in Afghanistan are looking forward to a great season! I personally woke up 0330 to watch the first preseason game against the Texans. Please send my best to the team and let them know they should be hearing support from across the pond. God bless. - US Army Capt. Chris Quantock in Bagram, Afghanistan

The Panthers appreciate the support they receive from military personnel stationed far and wide. Thanks for your commitment to the Panthers but even more so your commitment to the country.

Panthers.com senior writer Bryan Strickland answers your questions. Fill out the form below to send it to him. The answer to your question could be posted on Panthers.com.
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