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Carolina Panthers

Lingering questions following training camp

The Panthers got the positive signs they had hoped for from their rookie cornerbacks at training camp, and they left Wofford College reassured that both sides of the ball are capable of again ranking among the best in the NFL.

They didn't, however, leave camp with all the answers. Here are four questions that still need to be answered as the Panthers transition to playing out the rest of the preseason from their home base in Charlotte.

Who will be the primary nickel corner?

Rookies James Bradberry and Daryl Worley remained in control of the starting outside corner spots throughout camp, but it's still up in the air how the Panthers will handle nickel responsibilities. Fellow rookie Zack Sanchez took a lot of the first-team snaps there during practice, but come the first preseason game, he didn't play until the second half. Safety Colin Jones got some early run inside, and Bene Benwikere – still working his way back from a leg injury – practiced there a good bit.

Regardless of which defensive back earns the right to be the top choice for that role, it looks like the Panthers probably aren't going to turn to their five defensive back look as much as they have the last couple of seasons. That's because they want versatile linebacker Shaq Thompson on the field more often, primarily in their base defense but also perhaps in the nickel role at times.


Who will be the punter?

With the decision to waive Swayze Waters on the next-to-last day of camp, the two punters who competed for the job most of the offseason are no longer on the roster. When the Panthers signed veteran Mike Scifres in June, they waived Michael Palardy. Now they've brought in former Wofford punter Kasey Redfern to compete against Scifres, whose 14th and final season with the Chargers recently came to an end. Redfern was on the Chargers' practice squad for what proved to be Scifres' final game in San Diego.

More than ever, it looks like it's Scifres' job to lose, but he must prove he's fully recovered from offseason surgery. Scifres didn't punt in the preseason opener as a precaution. Redfern should get plenty of chances to put his best foot forward, and there's no reason to expect a final decision until final roster cuts.

What will the backup offensive line look like?

Daryl Williams -- who general manager Dave Gettleman said has progressed nicely -- at reserve tackle and Gino Gradkowski at reserve center aren't going anywhere, and Chris Scott has been a reliable reserve at guard the last couple of seasons. But the Panthers need at least one more reserve linemen to count on. David Foucault is a returning tackle seen as a developmental player, but in the meantime offseason acquisition Donald Hawkins might be developing into an interesting option. David Yankey is listed as the other reserve guard, but with all the talent at other positions, there might not be enough room on the roster for 10 offensive linemen.

Who will grab the final roster spots?

Speaking of those valuable roster spots, a big part of the rest of the preseason will revolve around what players step up and squeeze onto the 53-man roster that will be set the Saturday before the regular season opener. Wide receiver is always a heated race, and up-and-comer Damiere Byrd's fate at this juncture appears to hinge on whether the Panthers can carry six receivers. Every position group on defense has a close battle for the last roster spot. With all that in mind, third-string quarterback Joe Webb is a valuable player on special teams, but there are only so many roster spots and something has to give.

View the top photos from Carolina's training camp by team photographer Melissa Melvin-Rodriguez.

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