Carolina Panthers training camp: 4 big questions facing the DL

(Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images) Derrick Brown
(Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images) Derrick Brown /
5 of 5
Stephen Weatherly, Carolina Panthers
(Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images) Stephen Weatherly /

Carolina Panthers Question No. 4: Will Stephen Weatherly prove his worth as a starter?

Stephen Weatherly has worked tremendously hard to rise from an unfancied seventh-round pick to earn a starting job with the Carolina Panthers. But what comes next will be vital to his aspirations moving forward.

The defensive end has been a valued contributor for the Minnesota Vikings in a rotational role behind stud duo Danielle Hunter and Everson Griffen. And although the organization wanted to keep him around, they were not in a position to match the two-year, $12.5 million deal given to him by the Panthers.

This represents an outstanding opportunity for Weatherly. And one he must take full advantage of from the outset.

Carolina got themselves a security blanket in the former of No. 38 overall pick Yetur Gross-Matos if things don’t go according to plan with their free-agent signing. And the former Penn State standout will be looking to substantial minutes on the field sooner rather than later.

Carolina Panthers: Can Stephen Weatherly get double-digit sacks?. light. Related Story

This is something Weatherly can prevent by performing well in a more prominent role. He is a stout force against the run who also has a knack for getting into the backfield consistently. So there are plenty of reasons to be encouraged from the Panthers’ perspective.

Having Gross-Matos putting the pressure on should be the making of Weatherly. He has overcome plenty of adversity to reach this point. And he could be a tremendous asset for defensive coordinator Phil Snow to call upon.

More. Carolina Panthers: 4 new individual battles to watch against the Saints. light