Grill Bill: Save how many spots for the offensive line?

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@VagusNC Hey Bill! Will the number of injuries along the offensive line have an impact at other positions due to roster number limitations?

Well, let’s ask Ron Rivera. 

“I think this might be one of the best rosters we’ve had going into training camp. Unfortunately we’ve had the injuries that we’ve had, which has changed our dynamics right now,” he said Wednesday before admitting, “It’s going to affect us when we pick our 53. We may end up being heavy at one position as opposed to another.” 

Clearly, the offensive line is the danger area with Matt Kalil, Daryl Williams and Amini Silatolu currently sidelined. Of the three, Silatolu is the most likely to be back on the field by Week 1. That would still leave two spots filled by guys who won’t dress.

The Panthers still don’t know what they’re going to do with Williams, whose rehab is going smoothly but who won’t be ready to start the season. They could free up a spot by placing him on injured reserve with plans to bring him back after eight weeks. But to do that, they’d have to keep him on the 53-man roster through cutdown day. That means he’s going to take up a spot through cuts, regardless. 

So what you’re looking at are these nine: the Kalils, Williams, Silatolu, Trai Turner, Taylor Moton, Tyler Larsen, Jeremiah Sirles and Greg Van Roten. A 10th could come from the group of Brendan Mahon, Blaine Clausell and Dorian Johnson.

According to our residential roster researcher Bryan Strickland, the Panthers have carried just nine offensive linemen through cutdown day over each of the past three years. But they did keep 10 in both 2013 and 2014. So if they have to go heavy there, they could find extra space by not keeping a third quarterback. Or they may have to make a tough call at: 

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Website submission from Gray in Fuquay-Varina, NC: What RBs do you see making the roster after Christian McCaffrey and C.J. Anderson? Any shot Elijah Hood can pull it off? Also, Biscuits or Cornbread?

The only times the Panthers have carried five backs – including a fullback – in the Rivera era were in 2015 and 2017. So if they’re desperate for space, they could make it four this year. 

McCaffrey, Anderson and Alex Armah are locks. Then you’ve got Kenjon Barner and Cameron Artis-Payne. Barner gets points for his return skills, but him or Artis-Payne would be a tough call if the Panthers decide it’s one they need to make.

Hood has been good, but unless he explodes over the final two preseason games, I think he’s more of a fit on the practice squad for now. 

And biscuits, duh. 

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Website submission from Dominique in Weddington, NC: What do you say is McCaffrey’s biggest improvement this season?

As good as the blocking was on McCaffrey’s 71-yard touchdown against the Dolphins, what may have been more important was how he shrugged off Robert Quinn on that play. It was just an attempted arm tackle in a preseason game, but if those six added pounds of muscle can make McCaffrey harder to bring down, he’s going to have a huge sophomore season. 

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Website submission from Michael in Asheboro, NC: How much time is Alex Armah getting at TE? Could his versatility save a roster spot for someone else (like a sixth receiver or extra OL)?

He’s not getting many looks as a traditional tight end, obviously, and I don’t think he makes anyone fully expendable. But Armah has shown enough to make the Panthers believe he can fill part of Chris Manhertz's blocking role if Manhertz’s foot keeps him out through the start of the season. 

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@NickBuckwell What role do you see Ian Thomas playing this year? We’ve seen some good flashes in the passing game, but could he be used more in the run game due to OLine depth? Thanks for all you do for our team! #KeepPounding

Like pretty much any tight end coming out of college now, Thomas’ blocking is very much a work in progress. Especially for an offense that needs its ends to block well. He did set a solid seal block on McCaffrey’s touchdown run, but Thomas' main contribution will be as a pass catcher right now. 

Which leads to … 

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Website submission from Morgan in Jacksonville, NC: Could Ian Thomas and Greg Olsen be an upgrade from the 2011 tight end set of Jeremy Shockey and Olsen?

An upgrade may be a bit too optimistic at this point, but they could approach the numbers Olsen and Shockey combined for that year: 82 receptions, 995 yards and nine touchdowns. From that, Shockey contributed 37 catches for 455 with four scores. 

Thomas’ totals in 11 games at Indiana were 28/404/5, but he still has a ways to go before we can start comparing him to a four-time Pro Bowler. 

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@TyLewis48 Why has OL Johnson been pretty quiet since last week? I liked his play at LT vs Dolphins other than a few hiccups at the beginning

Dorian Johnson had a tough time in pass protection against Miami, which is understandable considering those were his first ever live reps at left tackle. 

“Dorian’s a guard,” Rivera reminded afterward. “Very, very pleased with his run blocking. He’s got some work to do as far as a pass pro guy. It’s one of those things where the more opportunities he gets, the better he can become. He’s very athletic. He’s got good feet. He’s a little bit out of position right now. Hopefully it’s one of those things where you continue reps, he might improve.”

So expectations at tackle should clearly be tempered for Johnson. But the 2017 fourth-round pick of the Cardinals has intriguing talent, and perhaps we’ll see him again at left tackle once the starters exit Friday against the Patriots. 

Now for the lightning round where this week we feature your most pressing questions. 

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@KingConor What’s the secret to your swagger? When asked who wore it better, you or cam? The answer is always you.

Obviously.  

And the secret is in the sauce. #DripSeason

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Website submission from Alex in Virginia Beach, VA:_ What are the chances of the Panthers listing Julius Peppers and Dontari Poe as fullbacks and having them smash into Von Miller all night if the Panthers face the Broncos in this year's Super Bowl?_

I don’t have an answer for this. 

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@joeyellis how come you can only buy hamburger buns in packs of eight? it’s infuriating and it keeps me up at night. I’ll take my answer off the air.

Betcha didn’t think I’d have an answer for this, but it's because buns are typically baked in eight-roll pans.

At least that’s what Google just told me. 

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@mitsein Why . . . just why

Because. 

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@MightyHelios Any possibility of having a new owner appreciation day and calling it the Tep Rally?

Sponsored by the new soft drink Dr. Tepper? 

I’ll see myself out.

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