Breaking Down the Panthers’ Final Roster Moves
The Carolina Panthers trimmed their roster to the NFL maximum of 53 players on Saturday afternoon, with only a few surprises amidst the mostly obvious moves.
Perhaps the biggest surprise of the day was seeing defensive tackles Tank Tyler and Corvey Irvin fall victim to the chopping block. The Panthers are not notorious for bailing early on draft picks, but Irvin lasted just one season on the injured reserve after being drafted in the third round in 2009. Tyler was acquired in the middle of the season last year from Kansas City in exchange for a fifth-round draft pick, and played in six games. Many, including myself, expected to see Nick Hayden and undrafted rookie Andre Neblett get the axe, but that wasn’t the case.
The Panthers said goodbye to quarterback Hunter Cantwell, who never saw a snap in a meaningful NFL game with Carolina, making way for rookie Tony Pike to become the third quarterback. This move makes perfect since, being that Cantwell has never really forced anybody to think of him as anything more than an experienced clipboard holder, even when the Panthers lost their top two quarterbacks last year. Pike has the intangibles and is a proven winner, albeit in a spread offense, and has shown more upside in this pre-season than Cantwell has in his career.
Local product Kenny Moore was also served his walking papers, much to the chagrin of several fans. However, six catches for 59 yards over the course of a season just won’t cut it, especially when only two came over the last eight games of the season. His muffed punt against Buffalo that potentially cost the Panthers the game was the beginning of his demise in the eyes of the coaching staff. After that blunder, he caught just one pass over the next eight weeks.
Linebacker Mortty Ivy was let go in favor of Nic Harris, who impressed many people in the preseason, and also gained a few extra fans after Darin Gantt of The Charlotte Observer published his life story in Saturday’s paper.
C.J. Wilson, Brian Witherspoon, and 7th-round draft pick R.J. Stanford were all released by the Panthers, a move that left the team with only four cornerbacks. Wilson was able to score on a fumble return in the team’s preseason opener in Baltimore, and Witherspoon snagged two picks in the Panthers’ only preseason victory against Tennessee, but neither was able to earn a roster spot. Stanford was the only 2010 draft pick to be cut by the Panthers.
The team placed three players on injured reserve Saturday, offensive linemen C.J. Davis and Duke Robinson, and safety Aaron Francisco. Robinson was expected to see a fair amount of playing time at the right guard spot this year, and Francisco was expected to be a special teams ace, much like Nick Goings and Dante Wesley had been in recent years.
Speaking of special teams ace, wide receiver Charly Martin survived the final cut and made the Panthers roster as the special teams specialist at the position, taking Wallace Wright’s spot. Wright injured his shoulder in the Tennessee game and was placed on injured reserve earlier in the week. Martin likely would have fallen victim to the final cut if Wright was healthy, given the fact that he suffered a rather nasty broken finger on his left hand, obviously limiting his catching abilities. His work ethic and determination to get back on the field—in whatever capacity possible—certainly led to his making the team over Kenny Moore.
Sixth-Round pick David Gettis made the team after a solid preseason that saw him tie for the team lead in receiving yards with tight end Gary Barnidge — a stat that is somewhat misleading, given that 50 of Barnidge’s 71 yards came on one play. Gettis was able to get open more often than any other Panthers receiver, catching seven balls. Seven balls in four games doesn’t sound like much, but with the way this offense played this preseason, it is. Look to see Gettis spend a decent amount of time in the slot this season.
Perhaps the most surprised member of the 53-man roster is offensive lineman Tim Duckworth, who arrived at camp just last week. He was almost a lock to be cut, but with Duke Robinson heading to the IR late, the Panthers were forced to take him over Andrew Crummey — who looked less like a natural fit at center than I might have as he tried to earn a roster spot by becoming Ryan Kalil’s back-up — and Ray Hisatake.
Wide receiver Trent Guy, who went to high school in Charlotte, linebacker Sean Ware, and fullback Rashawn Jackson were also let go, but will be signed to the practice squad assuming they clear waivers. Guy was given an extensive look in the Tennessee game as a return man, but wasn’t quite able to convince the Panthers that he was worthy of a precious roster spot.
Todd Carter made the roster as a kickoff specialist, but isn’t the same kind of weapon that Rhys Lloyd was last year. Lloyd was cut Saturday by the Vikings, but I doubt the Panthers will want to pay the difference between his price tag and what Carter’s will be.
Marty Hurney made it seem as though the chance of any other moves being made was pretty slim by saying that the Panthers’ staff was pleased with the group they had assembled, although the team may sign another offensive lineman before Sunday’s opener in New York if Jeff Otah is unable to play.
Unless any drastic changes in strategy or philosophy take place, the 53 men who wake up Sunday morning as Panthers will be the 53 men who come out of the tunnel in New York next Sunday, primed and ready to kick off the 2010 NFL season.
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