5 surprising candidates to make the Panthers 53-man roster in 2021

Dean Jones
(Jim Dedmon-USA TODAY Sports) Spencer Brown
(Jim Dedmon-USA TODAY Sports) Spencer Brown /
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Carolina Panthers
(Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports) Clay Johnston /

Clay Johnston – Carolina Panthers LB

It’s hard not to love the way Clay Johnston goes about his business. One only has to look at his time on camera during HBO’s Hard Knocks with the Los Angeles Rams in 2020 to see how much the linebacker loves the game, even if it wasn’t enough to see him make the team.

Los Angeles was willing to offer Johnston a place on their practice squad before the Carolina Panthers came in with a better offer. He worked with head coach Matt Rhule during their time together in college and also has a family member on the staff, so it’s a win-win for all parties involved.

Johnston was part of the practice squad and left enough of an impression to get a real shot of making the team this time around. The former Baylor standout is already familiar with the scheme and what’s expected, so he might not get a better opportunity to stake his claim.

Outside of the starting trio of Denzel Perryman, Shaq Thompson, and Jermaine Carter, there are some obvious concerns lower down the depth chart in terms of quality.

This leaves the door open for players like Johnston to possibly become pieces on the rotation providing they do enough at training camp and the preseason to convince the coaching staff of such an eventuality.