A player-by-player look at the 2015 Carolina Panthers active roster.
A pair of undrafted rookies earned their way onto the Carolina Panthers' 53-man roster announced Saturday, while the depth of talent at a couple of skill positions and along the back seven of the defense made for some difficult cuts.
Undrafted running back Brandon Wegher, who scored two rushing touchdowns in the preseason and had the Panthers' longest reception – a 42-yard score to win the opener at Buffalo – made the team. So did undrafted safety Dean Marlowe, who capped the victory over the Bills with an interception. All five of the team's drafted rookies made the roster.
Players who were kept can't afford to rest on their laurels because more moves are possible once the Panthers are able to access cuts made by other teams. In addition, several players cut by the Panthers are expected to land on their 10-player practice squad.
Here's a look at how each position group stacks up:
QUARTERBACKS (3): Cam Newton, Derek Anderson, Joe Webb
Newton and Anderson both signed contract extensions before the season. Webb extended his stay with a strong preseason performance, showing how valuable he can be on special teams while also being capable of helping at wide receiver in a pinch.
One of the Panthers' most difficult decisions came at running back, with Whittaker, Wegher and offseason acquisition Jordan Todman you had to figure at least one would be the odd man out. It proved to be Todman, who averaged more than five yards a carry even if you remove his 49-yard touchdown in the preseason finale and who did well as a pass blocker and on special teams. That only goes to show how much the Panthers think of Wegher and his impressive combination of speed and strength.
WIDE RECEIVERS (5): Jerricho Cotchery, Ted Ginn, Jr., Devin Funchess, Corey Brown, Kevin Norwood
The guys who made it were expected to, with Brown taking a step toward getting over his recent drops in the preseason finale and Norwood showing he was worth trading for in his Panthers debut. The question was whether there would be room for a sixth receiver, and there wasn't to the dismay of Brenton Bersin, who had another solid preseason after catching 13 passes for Carolina last season.
TIGHT ENDS (4): Greg Olsen, Ed Dickson, Richie Brockel, Brandon Williams
The Panthers kept the same four tight ends as last year, with waived players Scott Simonson and Marcus Lucas increasing the competition and helping make the returnees better. Brockel must work his way back from a shoulder injury, while Williams is showing signs of shaking off the rust following groin surgery that sidelined him all of training camp.
The Panthers reached an injury settlement with Brian Folkerts, who contributed at center, guard and on special teams the last two seasons but suffered an ankle injury in the preseason. Starting right tackle Mike Remmers has shown he can play center, and the versatility of Chris Scott – who could be an emergency center in addition to playing guard and tackle – helped him make team. The other reserves (Williams, Chandler, Silatolu) also are capable of playing multiple positions.
Invited tryout Rakim Cox was the talk of preseason early, but there just wasn't room for him. With Johnson sidelined the entire preseason and with Frank Alexander lost for the season to an Achilles injury, the Panthers' returning defensive ends all stepped up after a slow start.
There also wasn't room for Cox because Carolina decided this year – unlike last year – to keep a tackle as its ninth and final defensive linemen. The reality is Kyle Love played well enough to earn a spot even if there wasn't an injury concern for Lotulelei, who suffered a foot injury early in training camp and is yet to return to practice.
There was simply more talent than roster spots among the back seven. That was bad news for linebacker Adarius Glanton – who showed promise as a undrafted rookie in 2014 – and offseason acquisition Jason Trusnik, a veteran with special teams skills. Jacobs led the Panthers with nine special teams tackles in 2014 and has emerged as a leader for those groups.
DEFENSIVE BACKS (9): Josh Norman, Charles Tillman, Roman Harper, Kurt Coleman, Bene Benwikere, Tre Boston, Colin Jones, Teddy Williams, Dean Marlowe
The battle for the last couple of spots was heated here as well, with Carrington Byndom – an undrafted rookie added to the 53-man roster late last season – and late addition T.J. Heath missing out. The Panthers believe Marlowe can really develop into something given time, while Williams came on strong late in the preseason before suffering a groin injury in the finale.
No decisions to be made here, with "The Bomb Squad" facing no competition after the cut to 75. Gano was outstanding in the preseason, leading the NFL with a 10-for-10 showing on field goals.