CHARLOTTE — General manager Marty Hurney had a busy weekend as the Panthers set their initial 53-man roster. But the true tests of the 2020 season have yet to begin.
As Carolina prepares for its Week 1 matchup with Las Vegas, Hurney on Tuesday spoke with the media via teleconference for about 20 minutes. Here are the top takeaways from the session.
DIFFICULTY OF ROSTER CONSTRUCTION
With no preseason games, teams were reluctant to claim players off waivers after roster reductions on Saturday. As Hurney pointed out, the Panthers tied the Giants for most claims at three, and there were just 17 in all.
Cornerback Rasul Douglas, defensive end Shareef Miller, and offensive lineman Trent Scott each had connections with someone on the Panthers' staff. Director of player personnel Pat Stewart was previously a national scout for Philadelphia, where Douglas and Miller played, and Pat Meyer coached Scott with the Chargers. Hurney believed those familiarities gave the Panthers an advantage.
"(Douglas) is a guy we had our eye on, that if he was released we would claim and we got him," Hurney said.
As for the Panthers' own players, Hurney felt head coach Matt Rhule's practices were conducive to roster evaluation. The competitive periods allowed Hurney and his staff to see how players were performing across the board.
"That's where it starts in making the decisions of who you're going to have on your 53 and who you want on your practice squad," Hurney said.
Hurney and Rhule have continually said they'll look to upgrade the roster whenever possible. And with games on the horizon, Carolina will have better tools at its disposal.
"Now we get our first evaluation under the lights, so to speak," Hurney said. "We'll get a better feel each week for what positions we need help at, if any."
CUTTING AND SIGNING
The Panthers had to get creative to add and keep all the players they wanted over the last few days. Cornerback Eli Apple (ankle/foot) and wide receiver Keith Kirkwood (clavicle) needed to be placed on the reserve/injured list, but in order to keep the door open to bring them back during the season, those moves had to happen after 4:01 p.m. on Sunday.
Though the Panthers didn't want to risk losing him, defensive end Efe Obada was the odd man out. But Obada also cleared waivers and was re-added Monday afternoon.
"That was one of those calculated risks that you'll hold your breath on for a few hours yesterday," Hurney said.
Rhule has said Obada could play both defensive tackle and defensive end for the Panthers this season, depending on the matchup.
INJURIES AND DEPTH
Apple and Kirkwood will both be eligible to rejoin the roster after three games. Hurney said Apple's ankle injury was a factor in claiming Douglas since the Panthers knew they'd be down a cornerback.
This ankle injury is unrelated to what Apple dealt with at the close of 2019 when he missed Week 17 and the postseason with the Saints.
One of the more concerning injury situations heading into Week 1 is the status of left guard Dennis Daley, who's dealing with an ankle injury. But if he has to miss time, Carolina is comfortable with seven-year veteran Michael Schofield.
"He's always going to make sure he's in the right position. He's good with his hands. He's an excellent technician," Hurney said. "We feel fortunate to have a guy like that be able to go in there."
DEPTH AT TIGHT END AND CORNERBACK
Between Chris Manhertz, Ian Thomas, and Thompson, Hurney said he's comfortable with the Panthers' depth at tight end. Hurney praised Thomas' receiving ability, despite being young and still learning. Hurney also touted Thompson's reliability as the third tight end when it comes to knowing the playbook.
There was, however, one aspect of the position Carolina wasn't able to address.
"Coming into this offseason, we were saying, can you get a down-the-seam guy? But I think we feel good with those three," Hurney said.
With the relative youth and inexperience at corner, Hurney admitted the Panthers would likely continue to look at options at the position. He did compliment rookie Troy Pride Jr. for getting better every week and Corn Elder for his ability to play in the slot.
"Our defensive back coaches have done a great job with the guys we have, improving them," Hurney said.
— Hurney revealed the plan was always for the Panthers to carry three quarterbacks into the season. The team likes Will Grier and PJ Walker behind Teddy Bridgewater, and both should get an opportunity to serve as the backup quarterback this season.
— Kicker/punter Kaare Vedvik's versatility is why he stuck around on the Panthers' practice squad. Should something happen to punter Joseph Charlton or kicker Joey Slye late in the week, Vedvik would already be around to get Carolina through the game.
— Hurney noticed significant improvement from 2019 second-round pick Greg Little during camp, saying Little has benefitted from veteran left tackle Russell Okung's mentorship.
— The Panthers have not had any contract extension talks with 2017 second-round picks Curtis Samuel and Taylor Moton. Hurney said the focus right now is to craft the best 69 possible, with 53 men on the active roster and 16 on the practice squad.
— Finally, Luke Kuechly has "hit the ground running" as a pro scout.
"He's doing the same things here as he did when he was playing — staying until 9 and 10 o'clock and looking at guys and evaluating," Hurney said. "When you read his reports, they're so concise, and they paint such a good picture. He's just got a knack."
View the best abstract photos from 2020 training camp in Charlotte.