The Panthers’ coaches and front office personnel huddled Friday, going over the final few spots on their 53-man roster, which must be set by 4 p.m. Saturday. There aren’t expected to be many surprises, although a couple of players who were on the team last season might not make it, such as safety Robert Lester and receiver Tavarres King.
General manager Dave Gettleman and his staff will be keeping close tabs on the other 31 teams’ cut lists. But after winning the NFC South with a 12-4 record in 2013, the Panthers are 28th in the pecking order for waiver claims until Week 4, when the order is determined by teams’ records.
The Observer’s Joseph Person projects the Panthers’ roster for the fifth and final time this preseason (changes from last week are noted in bold):
Quarterbacks (3): Cam Newton, Derek Anderson, Joe Webb
Comment: Even before Newton cracked his ribs, Ron Rivera said the team was considering keeping three quarterbacks. Given Newton’s injury, Webb becomes a proven insurance policy.
Running backs (4): DeAngelo Williams, Jonathan Stewart, Mike Tolbert, Fozzy Whittaker
Comment: Whittaker took one for the team at Pittsburgh, playing through a midsection injury and carrying 23 times while Williams and Stewart got the night off.
Wide receivers (6): Jerricho Cotchery, Jason Avant, Kelvin Benjamin, Brenton Bersin, Philly Brown, Free Agent TBD
Comment: The coaches like Brown’s makeup and his background as a returner at Ohio State. Tavarres King appears to be on the bubble, and could be left off in favor of a free agent pickup.
Tight ends (4): Greg Olsen, Ed Dickson, Richie Brockel, Brandon Williams
Comment: Dickson and Williams each caught two passes vs. the Steelers while Olsen stayed in Charlotte following his son’s open-heart surgery.
Offensive line (8): Byron Bell, Nate Chandler, Trai Turner, Amini Silatolu, Ryan Kalil, Garry Williams, Chris Scott, Fernando Velasco
Comment: Velasco’s ability to play guard and center would seem to give him an edge over Brian Folkerts, whose high snap helped end Anderson’s night at Pittsburgh.
Defensive line (9): Greg Hardy, Charles Johnson, Star Lotulelei, Kawann Short, Dwan Edwards, Colin Cole, Kony Ealy, Mario Addison, Wes Horton
Comment: The Panthers’ deepest position group could get a spark in October when DE Frank Alexander returns from his four-game suspension.
Linebackers (6): Luke Kuechly, Thomas Davis, A.J. Klein, Chase Blackburn, Jason Williams, D.J. Smith
Comment: Blackburn played well vs. the Steelers after missing the third exhibition with a back injury.
Defensive backs (10): Antoine Cason, Melvin White, Bené Benwikere, Charles Godfrey, Josh Norman, Roman Harper, Thomas DeCoud, Colin Jones, Tre Boston, Free agent TBD
Comment: If Boston begins the year on injured reserve, it could mean a reprieve for second-year safety Robert Lester, who has not had did not have a good preseason.
Specialists (3): Graham Gano, Brad Nortman, J.J. Jansen
Comment: Gano booted kicked a 65-yard field goal – with plenty of distance to spare – during warmups at Pittsburgh, then missed a 39-yarder during the exhibition. But no one in the organization is worried about Gano.