3 winners (and 2 losers) from Carolina Panthers 2024 OTAs

Which players helped or hurt their chances?
D.J. Johnson
D.J. Johnson / Jim Dedmon-USA TODAY Sports
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Winner No. 3

D.J. Johnson - Carolina Panthers OLB

As previously mentioned, the Carolina Panthers were without their two projected starting edge rushers throughout voluntary organized team activities. D.J. Wonnum is continuing his rehabilitation from a torn quad and reportedly suffered a setback according to head coach Dave Canales. Jadeveon Clowney was around earlier but opted to skip this portion of the program.

K'Lavon Chaisson also missed OTAs. This provided an opportunity for those further down the pecking order with extended reps and a prolonged chance to impress Carolina's new coaching staff.

That's what makes D.J. Johnson a winner.

The Panthers raised eyebrows by trading up to acquire Johnson at No. 80 overall in the 2023 NFL Draft. Scott Fitterer panicked when edge rushers began flying off his board - something that became synonymous with his time as general manager before team owner David Tepper pulled the plug.

Johnson was seen as a Day 3 selection and played like one. The former Oregon star struggled to adjust. He failed to register a sack and turned out in 29 percent of Carolina's defensive snaps. This only raised scrutiny on the decision to move up and take someone who perhaps wasn't worthy of his eventual draft standing.

Ejiro Evero and his staff seem willing to give Johnson another shot. There's an opportunity to carve out a key rotational role for himself. If Wonnum or Clowney suffer more health issues, extended reps in a competitive environment is an attainable target for the second-year pro.

Significant improvements need to be made for Johnson to achieve this feat. But the fact he got an early chance to showcase what he could potentially bring to the table and what improvements were made during the offseason was a big win for the player.

It'll be interesting to see who the Panthers put opposite Clowney during their upcoming mandatory minicamp. If the choice is Johnson - although others will also fancy their chances - it's proof that the coaching staff liked what they saw over the voluntary period of preparations.