OTAs are well underway and only scarce details could hint at who’s front runner for each line on the depth chart. With all the rookies now under contract, we can focus on who will be pushing for a starting spot and which vets will have these young players nipping at their heels. The potential lineup come preseason is an abstract painting at this point, but various OTA impressions are adding full strokes of color to the landscape. Here are some battles we’ll see heat up in the coming months.
David Foucault vs The English Language / Trai Turner vs Chris Scott
This giant prospect that was picked 6th overall in the CFL draft but fought for a roster spot with the Panthers will be under pressure very uncharacteristic for a tryout player. The 6’7” monstrous lineman will have a realistic chance to add some depth to the line if he overcomes his spotty English and, less so, two previously undrafted players in Byron Bell or Nate Chandler. Foucault, along with draft pick Trai Turner, give hope when it comes to the future of our offensive line, offering a couple big, physical players.
Tyler Gaffney vs Darrin Reaves
The Panthers RBs are taking up a huge chunk of cap at the moment and I can’t imagine Gettleman keeping them both around at their recent level of performance. Unless there’s an incredible resurgence of talent between Stewart and Williams, expect at least one to be a casualty. Gaffney is in a strong position to become the heir apparent with Rivera a big fan of his blitz pickup skill and durability. With Kenjon Barner seemingly focused on Special Teams going forward, unsigned pick from UAB Darrin Reaves could potentially round out the RB relief. A highly productive runner, Reaves will have to prove he can run with the big cats due to UAB’s lack of high caliber competition.
Charles Godfrey vs Himself vs Bene Benwikere
Godfrey isn’t a new name to the Panthers roster, but those checking the depth chart will find his name in a different place this upcoming Preseason: CB. Originally a Strong Safety, Godfrey was a pretty solid player.
When he was on the field.
Godfrey has been plagued with injury the last couple years and had his contract restructured this offseason due to his lack of play time thus far. He was a bright spot in the Panthers secondary and hopefully there will be a return to form. With draft pick Bene Benwikere pushing him for the nickel spot (and recently impressing spectators), I imagine a much improved secondary being fielded in 2014.
Greg Hardy vs The Law vs Kony Ealy
Kony Ealy’s selection in the 2nd, though it was certainly a steal, was a head scratcher for most watching the draft. Soon after, though, people began to wonder if the Panthers would be able to keep both Johnson and Hardy on the roster after the 2014 season due to their very high cap demand. Soon after that, Hardy went to jail for domestic abuse. Things are pending on that situation currently, but it seems Gettleman and the rest of the camp got one heck of an insurance policy. With his versatility becoming more evident in OTAs, Ealy should give fans much hope going into the future regardless of the Kraken’s return or lack thereof.
The Royal (WR) Rumble
With Kelvin Benjamin being all but a shoe in for a starting spot in the WR corp, it seems every spot around him is up for grabs. Avant and Cotchery are very likely to get the start, but my dark horse candidate is unsigned receiver Philly Brown of Ohio State. With clear value in the return game due to his experience in college, I’m hoping he can find comfort in the offense and spread the field much like Ted Ginn did in the previous season.
Regardless of the offseason loses, 2014 will see the Panthers field an improved team. The NFC South overall has improved, though, and will be a major test for Cam, Rivera, Luke, and the team. Which players are you looking forward to seeing in the preseason?