We’re halfway through the preseason and NFL rosters are starting to take shape. At this stage, attentions are really turning to those all-important 53 that will break camp with the teams. Let’s take a look at the latest roster projection for the Carolina Panthers.
Carolina Panthers 53-man projection
Quarterbacks (3): Cam Newton, Will Grier, Kyle Allen
Despite the rough outings against the Bills, Grier and Allen still seem like the favorites to make the roster behind Newton. The Panthers obviously have a lot invested in Grier, spending a third-round pick on him and having some sort of plan for him. And the team still likes what they have in Allen, who can come in should anything happen to Newton.
Running Backs (4): Christian McCaffrey, Cameron Artis-Payne, Jordan Scarlett, Reggie Bonnafon
Artis-Payne feels like a strong bet to stick as McCaffrey’s direct backup and take some snaps every now and then during games. He’s also gotten work as a kick returner, furthering his chances of sticking around. Scarlett and Bonnafon have shown well in the passing game. Elijah Holyfield has also shown flashes this preseason, but this was simply a numbers game at other positions. However, the Panthers could land Holyfield on their practice squad.
Fullback (1): Alex Armah
Not much to dive into here. The Panthers are one of the few teams left in the league that still employ a true fullback on their roster.
Wide Receivers (7): DJ Moore, Curtis Samuel, Jarius Wright, Chris Hogan, Terry Godwin, Torrey Smith, Jayden Mickens
This is maybe the most intriguing position group on the roster to figure out. The first four are locks. It’s after Hogan where it gets very interesting. Smith still shows up on the field and has the veteran presence both on and off the field. After that, it’s anyone’s guess. Godwin, Mickens, and Ross are all showing up strong in the return game. Not that it means anything, but it’s interesting that Aldrick Robinson has been wearing a single-digit number this preseason. Sometimes it’s bad news, but sometimes it’s good news, as Victor Cruz can attest to. But in this case, Godwin can handle punt return duties and Mickens has shown up more as a kickoff returner. At the very least, Mickens is squarely on the roster bubble and will be one of, if not the last player selected on the team.
Tight Ends (3): Greg Olsen, Ian Thomas, Chris Manhertz
Not much changing at the tight end position, but the Panthers could also elect to keep four tight ends if they really like Jason Vander Laan, which they certainly seem to.
Offensive Line (9): Daryl Williams, Greg Van Roten, Matt Paradis, Trai Turner, Taylor Moton, Greg Little, Tyler Larsen, Dennis Daley, Taylor Hearn
A position group that has been a major question mark for some time now has more glamour to it. The first five will likely make up the Week 1 opening lineup, from left to right. Little is locked in as Williams’ backup and could still work his way at some point into the starting lineup. Larsen will back up Paradis at center. Daley and Hearn are also solid backups, with Daley starting to be developed at multiple positions.
Defensive Line (6): Gerald McCoy, Dontari Poe, Kawann Short, Brian Cox, Vernon Butler, Kyle Love
The Carolina Panthers are going to field one of the best defensive front lines in the NFL in 2019 with McCoy, Poe, and Short. Cox, Butler, and Love have been running as the second-team defensive line throughout camp and provide solid rotational pieces for when the first three need a breather during games. Keep an eye out for Efe Obada, who came on strong in 2018 but is once again on the bubble.
Linebackers (9): Luke Kuechly, Shaq Thompson, Mario Addison, Bruce Irvin, Brian Burns, Jermaine Carter, Marquis Haynes, Andre Smith, Christian Miller
If wide receivers are the most intriguing position group for the Carolina Panthers’ final cutdowns, linebacker might be considered 1B. If there’s one player to watch out for now, it’s undrafted rookie Jordan Kunaszyk. He performed very well against the Bills nd has strengthened his case for inclusion. Carter and Smith seem to be locked in as the backups to Kuechly and Thompson after getting the start against the Bills. Haynes and Miller are players that can become pass-rush specialists
Defensive Backs: Donte Jackson, Eric Reid, Tre Boston, James Bradberry, Rashaan Gaulden, Ross Cockrell, Kevon Seymour, Cole Luke
Probably the closest vote here was Cole Luke beating out Corn Elder for one of the final spots and backing up Rashaan Gaulden at the nickel position. Cockrell can play both cornerback and safety, making him a very valuable backup. He has shown tremendous growth and recovery from his injury that cost him all of 2018.
Specialists: Michael Palardy, Graham Gano, J.J. Jansen
No surprises with the specialists. The only position that had an extra player in camp was kicker and coach Ron Rivera didn’t even call it a competition. Joey Slye’s days as a Panther are numbered because Gano is not missing out. Could the Chicago Bears be a potential landing spot? Time will tell.