Panthers No. 50: Can Chris Smith rise up DL depth chart at camp?
Could experienced defensive end Chris Smith move up the defensive line depth chart when the Carolina Panthers return to training camp?
We are now just 50 days from the Carolina Panthers taking the field in a competitive environment. A turbulent offseason full of changes across the board will come to a head when the new-look roster and coaching staff take on the Las Vegas Raiders in their week one matchup.
The NFL is still planning to start on time despite the current climate. And although things will look far different with no fans in the stands. Having no football at all would have severe ramifications from a financial perspective across the league. This would impact the Carolina Panthers more than most ahead of another crucial 2021 offseason period as they look to speed up their rebuild under Matt Rhule.
It promises to be an intriguing few weeks for the organization, with players finally reporting for training camp in the coming days. Rookies have already begun their period of testing. And with no preseason games on the schedule, it is vital they make every team drill count.
Continuing our countdown feature ahead of the new season, we now turn our attention to Carolina’s No. 50. Chris Smith was a free-agent arrival this offseason. And he goes into training camp looking to rise up the depth chart.
The former fifth-round pick has his work cut out on what looks to be a formidable Panthers’ defensive front. So what sort of impression he can make in a short space of time will ultimately determine whether or not he makes the 53-man roster.
Can Chris Smith make the Carolina Panthers 53-man roster?
Smith has been a bit-part player during his career, notching only two starts with the Cleveland Browns in 2018. He has adjusted well to a backup role during his six-year stint in the NFL to date. But the task awaiting him in pursuit of valuable game time in Carolina cannot be understated.
The defensive end signed a one-year deal that could be worth $1.49 million if he reaches his targets. The starting spots on the edge look to be cemented with Stephen Weatherly and Brian Burns. But Yetur Gross-Matos is another that will be expected to make a contribution after Carolina allocated the No. 38 overall pick to the former Penn State standout.
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Marquis Haynes, Efe Obada, and Christian Miller will also be looking to stake a claim for minutes during team drills in the coming weeks. And this is a further reflection on the size of the task awaiting Smith with the Panthers.
Smith is 32-years-old, so he is running out of chances in the NFL. Carolina has made a concerted effort to go younger this offseason during the first year of their rebuild. And this might see the lineman on the outside looking in.
This increased sense of urgency for Smith to deliver the goods might bring the best out of him. He goes into camp with career stats of 8.5 sacks, 11 tackles for loss, 19 quarterback hits, three forced fumbles, and 49 solo tackles. And he will need to call on every ounce of his experience to convince the coaching staff to keep him around in 2020.
The ex-member of the Arkansas Razorbacks has got more to than most at training camp. And Smith’s career might depend on what sort of impression he can make.