It’s that time of year again and training camp is amongst us. This will mark the 23rd time that Wofford College in Spartanburg, South Carolina will be hosting the Carolina Panthers. For the fans it starts Wednesday July 26th at 6:30 pm with a training camp kickoff party at Gibbs Stadium. For the players this is their last chance to showcase their skills and secure a spot on the final 53-man roster. This might be one of the deepest and most talented groups the Panthers have had going into training camp. It’s also the best talent the Panthers social media has had going into the season. This can be seen by their statewide hype play on Game of Thrones: “Wofford is Coming”
— Carolina Panthers (@Panthers) July 12, 2017
Projected Starting Lineups:
Even though most of the starting positions will be filled with familiar names there are some interesting position battles that will be taking place. Specifically, those taking place at the right tackle and the defensive end positions. With the signing of left tackle Matt Kalil, it is assumed that he will fill the position of recently cut Michael Oher. This leaves the right side up for grabs between newly drafted rookie Taylor Moton and third year player Daryl Williams. Williams, who started 12 games over the past two years, looks to have the inside track on securing this battle. However, Moton who the Panthers selected with a second round pick will give Williams a run for his money. The battle between Moton and Willaims will be one of the biggest throughout camp, as protecting Cam Newton was a priority this past offseason. The other starting position up for grabs is the starting defensive ends, as there is a monstrous three headed battle for this position. This battle is between a rejuvenated Julius Peppers, Charles Johnson who is second in franchise history in sacks behind Peppers, and Mario Addision who was last year’s team leader in sacks. This is a great problem for the Panthers. This may come down to strategy more than anything, as Mario Addision may not start, but because he is the youngest, he will likely get the bulk of the playing time.
Newly hired interim GM Marty Hurney and Ron Rivera will have some interesting decisions to make on the offensive side of the ball. First is what to do about Graham Gano and 6th round draft pick Harrison Butker. It’s highly unlikely that they will keep two kickers on the final 53-man roster, and the Panthers have never drafted a kicker before in franchise history. This more than likely means if Butker has a good showing then Graham Gano is on the way out. The Panthers are going into camp with a plethora of wide receivers, 12 to be exact. Pick your attribute, speed, height, youth, experience, they have it all. The key is picking the right combination that fits in with Mike Shula’s scheme. Versatility, which was a theme in the draft, seems to be the theme this past offseason. What will be interesting will be how newly added Russell Shepard will match up against Brenton Bersin, Keyarris Garrett, and Damiere Byrd. Combine this with the impressive showings in rookie camp by Austin Duke and Fred Ross then you have a interesting situation. Another battle to watch is who will be the third running back behind Jonathan Stewart and Christian McCaffrey. Both Fozzy Whittaker and Cameron Artis-Payne have been on the roster competing for the number two spot over the last few seasons.
On the defensive side of the ball, they learned from last year and added a lot of depth. After the departure of Josh Norman cornerback has been a point of emphasis. With starters James Bradberry and Daryl Worley, and newly signed Captain Munnerlyn locking in the starting outside and nickel positions respectively, Zach Sanchez, Corn Elder and Teddy Williams are going to be looking to make the final 53-man roster. The linebackers group is a crowded one. Luke Kuechly, Thomas Davis, and Shaq Thompson comprise one of the best linebacker cores in the NFL, look for David Mayo, Ben Jacobs, Jeremy Cash, and Ben Boulware to battle it out to secure a spot. Ben Boulware could be the surprise in this group as he currently is on the outside looking in, but for him to make the roster he’ll have to beat out a player who previously held a spot.
The preseason schedule is as followed:
1 Aug 9 7:30PMEDT PTVN Texans
2 Aug 19 3:00PMEDT PTVN @ Titans
3 Aug 24 7:30PMEDT PTVN @ Jaguars
4 Aug 31 7:30PMEDT PTVN Steelers
Some key NFL dates to keep in mind:
August 9-13: First Preseason Weekend.
August 17-21: Second Team Preseason Weekend.
August 24-27: Third Preseason Weekend.
August 31: Final Preseason Games.
September 2: Prior to 4 p.m. ET, clubs must reduce rosters to a maximum of 53 players on the Active/Inactive List.
September 2: Simultaneously with the cut-down to 53, clubs that have players in the categories of Active/Physically Unable to Perform or Active/Non-Football Injury or Illness must select one of the following options: place player on Reserve/Physically Unable to Perform or Reserve/NonFootball Injury or Illness, whichever is applicable; request waivers; terminate contract; trade contract; or continue to count the player on the Active List.