With training camp coming up, what position battle are you looking forward to watching? – Tyler in Reno, Nev.
With 90 players currently on the roster and just 53 spots available come the regular season, the jockeying for the final few spots is always fascinating. From a position perspective, I'll have my eye on three position groups that revolve around the passing game – wide receivers, cornerbacks and defensive linemen.
What else do all three have in common? Well, the Panthers have more talent than realistic roster spots. Something – actually a lot – has to give at receiver with 14 on the 90-man roster. Kelvin Benjamin returns to a group that also returns four productive players from a season ago – Ted Ginn, Jr., Devin Funchess, Philly Brown and Brenton Bersin – and there's typically only room for five, maybe six. Stephen Hill is back, too, and Damiere Byrd was outstanding during offseason workouts. That only covers about half the options.
At corner, the presence of Bene Benwikere and three drafted rookies doesn't realistically leave room for all three returners – Robert McClain, Teddy Williams and Lou Young – to make the cut. At defensive end, it will be interesting to see which young and talented options emerge behind Charles Johnson, Kony Ealy and Mario Addison, a group that includes returners Ryan Delaire, Rakim Cox and Arthur Miley.
I noticed in your position preview of the running backs you didn't talk about Fozzy. Are you trying to tell us something? – Elijah in Dallas, N.C.
Whittaker was mentioned – albeit briefly – in both the running back article and the accompanying video, but don't take it as a slight. As Panthers Insider Mike Craft stated in the video, "Fozzy Whittaker, what he has done for this team speaks for itself."
Whittaker wasn't principle in the preview because he's not the principle back, but he's also not a back like last year's rookies Cameron Artis-Payne and Brandon Wegher still trying to work into the mix. Whittaker is a known quantity, and a valuable one at that given his bursting speed and pass-catching ability. There are certainly no guarantees year-to-year when it comes to making the roster, but Whittaker has skills that can continue to help this team.
By the way, as a training camp primer of sorts, I encourage you to catch up on our position preview series, which has already broken down the offense and is beginning to do the same on defense. One easy way to find them all in one spot is to search for "Three Questions" in the search box atop the Panthers.com homepage.
I haven't heard anything about our special teams, specifically our punter. We need that weapon for our defense. – A.J. in Halifax, N.C.
The punting competition got kicked up a notch when the Panthers signed veteran Mike Scifres last month. One of the NFL's most reliable punters since San Diego selected him in the fifth round of the 2003 NFL Draft, Scifres immediately changed the tenor of organized team activities before the Panthers broke for a pre-camp break. He boomed most of his punts during his first few practices, and his presence appeared to improve the performance of Swayze Waters, who is vying for the job as well. Scifres has a massive experience edge, but Waters has a live leg and a younger one at that. Fans should find comfort in Scifres' experience, and if Waters wins the job, you know he earned it and is ready for it.
Coach Rivera played for Buddy Ryan for two years. What statement did he make following Ryan's recent passing? – Al in Ocala, Fla.
Ryan, who died June 28 at the age of 85, was Bears defensive coordinator for Ron Rivera's first two years as a linebacker for the famed Chicago defense. Rivera posted his sentiments via Twitter.
Ryan left the Bears following the legendary 1985 season to take over as head coach of the Philadelphia Eagles, the franchise that produced Rivera's next great influence. Jim Johnson began a highly successful run as Eagles defensive coordinator in 1999, the same year Rivera arrived in Philly to begin his first job as a position coach. Johnson, also a mentor to current Panthers defensive coordinator Sean McDermott, died in 2009. McDermott assumed Johnson's role for two seasons in Philadelphia before joining the Panthers.
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