3 Carolina Panthers on the roster bubble who must impress at 2024 minicamp

These Carolina Panthers players must make their presence felt.
Jalen Coker
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Eku Leota - Carolina Panthers OLB

Much has been made about the Carolina Panthers' lack of legitimate pass-rushing options heading into the season. Those in power couldn't repair the relationship with two-time Pro Bowler Brian Burns and he was traded to the New York Giants. Frankie Luvu and Yetur Gross-Matos left for pastures new in free agency. Marquis Haynes Sr. wasn't brought back after suffering some injury complications in 2023.

Not having D.J. Wonnum, Jadeveon Clowney, or K'Lavon Chaisson over Carolina's voluntary organized team activities exposed this further. Dave Canales used their respective absences as a positive, getting reps into young players to see what they can bring to the table in a competitive environment.

One player who got an extended look also starred last summer. Eku Leota flashed significant promise during his first offseason with the franchise. Although he didn't do enough to make the 53-man roster initially, the Panthers stashed him on the practice squad and eventually gave him a chance over the second half of 2023.

Leota suited up eight times, turning out in 15 percent of Carolina's defensive snaps. He featured more prominently on special teams with a 44% snap rate. His development in this area will be another integral part of his pursuit to get similar or perhaps even enhanced involvement next time around.

Considering the questions surrounding Chaisson, D.J. Johnson, and Luiji Vilain, Leota should fancy his chances. However, there's also a chance Carolina bolsters its options in this critical area of the field before Week 1 at the New Orleans Saints gets here.

The former undrafted free agent out of Auburn will be someone to watch closely in the days and weeks ahead. Leota should benefit greatly from the experience of NFL action last season. How the edge presence builds on this newly acquired momentum will likely determine whether he can become a factor under defensive coordinator Ejiro Evero in 2024.