DE – Stanley McClover vs. Charles Johnson
These guys are rivals going back to their SEC days when Auburn would battle with Georgia. McClover has made a believer out of many in the Panther organization and should have the edge to get in the rotation early. All this is predicated on Rucker returning to health and reclaiming his starting spot. These two might be battling with Rucker himself for the starters snaps. Playing opposite Peppers is a great position to be in because double teams will be very unlikely. I'm going with the guy who has the experience and the high motor.
WR – Dwayne Jarrett vs. Drew Carter
Both guys are tall but from there the similarities end. Carter is known for his speed and ability to "stretch the defense" as some people like to say. Yet he only averaged 12 yards/catch in 2006, suggesting he has a hard time getting open downfield. It’s hard to be a threat if you can’t get open or tend to drop the ball in key situations. Jarrett on the other hand was knocked prior to the draft for a lack of speed but he is lauded for his "soft" hands and ability to make the hard catch. Thirty + TD’s in college is impressive and he got lots of praise coming out of OTA’s. He may just be the second round steal of the draft. Given Steve Smith provides all the downfield threat the Panthers need, I think Jarrett’s ability to make the big catch on 3rd down will earn him the starting spot.
RG – Evan Mathis vs. Jeremy Bridges vs. Ryan Kalil
Mathis started at RG last season but rumors are he may move to tackle. The only way I can absorb this is with the new zone-blocking scheme he may just not fit at the RG spot. Bridges is rumored to be moving from tackle to RG and given his size he appears to be a good fit. Kalil is the wild card in this battle. He may just prove to be too good to sit the bench and the Panthers decide to let him compete here. Given Bridges is a cast off from Dallas and Kalil is a rookie, I’m going to go with experience.
WLB – Na’il Diggs vs. Jon Beason
Diggs is the incumbent starter who isn’t going to give his spot up without a fight regardless of what round Beason was drafted. Yet Diggs has been through seven seasons of pounding and is probably on the down slope of his career. Beason on the other hand is the prototypical LB who has size, strength and speed. Besides, he gets high marks for leadership and attitude and they will be a plus on the field. Given the premium placed on speed at the weak side position I have to go with the 1st round draft pick.
QB – Jake Delhomme vs. David Carr
Though Fox has stated Jake is the starter you can bet neither of these guys is letting that influence anything. Jake knows he has to perform to keep his job and I think will respond positively to it in camp. Carr may be saying the right things but this guy is a former #1 overall pick and five year starter. He’s not going to be content sitting on the bench for long and I’m sure he’s going to try to gain the confidence of the organization as early as possible. Look for both guys to look good in camp but in the end Fox will stick with his guy.