The first responsibility of a TE under HC John Fox is run blocking ability. Since Fox became head coach in 2002, he has always carried at least three TEs and in three years there were four TEs credited to the roster (2002, 2003, 2006). However while I won't predict it, I can see a scenario this year where Fox decides to keep only two TE on the 53 man roster. The scenario would take into account the two FB currently on the roster, Brad Hoover and rookie Tony Fiammetta. If they keep both it could make one of the TE positions expendable.
Let's jump in and review who is currently on the roster.
Jeff King (4th year, Virgina Tech) 6'3" 260, Age 26: King was drafted in 2006 but didn't see much playing time until his second year. For having only two years of starting experience he fits nicely with the Panthers offensive game plan. While you can't put a stat on blocking, he was definitely a key cog in the Panthers successful running game last year. While he doesn't have the best hands in the league, he's more than adequate for the teams needs and is capable of finding an open spot when needed. He's a proven player that should continue to find a spot on the Panthers roster for several years.
100% chance of making the team and being the starter
Dante Rosario (3rd year, Oreg
on) 6'4" 250, Age 24: It appeared after the first game, 7 receptions for 96 yards, in 2008 that Rosario might have a breakout year. Yet his disappearing act the rest of the season has baffled everyone, when he went 11 receptions for 113 yards. However, much can be debated if the lack of involvement was by his own doing, the lack of involvement of the TE in the passing game, or Delhomme's inability to get them more involved. Then, in an odd decision, instead of having surgery immediately following the close of the season, he decided to wait until the first of May. While it was noted he should return in time for training camp, the timing is very questionable. With the possibility of carrying two FB this season, the decision may force the Panthers to only keep two TE as well. Because of this and the late surgery it give me pause in predicting his chances of being a Panthers.
85% chance of making the roster
Gary Barnidge (2nd year, Louisville) 6'5" 247, Age 23: Not since Wesley Walls have the Panthers had a consistent receiving threat but Barnidge has the hands to possibly become that threat. Between his college scouting reports and his impressive showing during last months OTA, Barnidge is setting himself up to possibly become a major factor on the Panther offense. However he will need to work on his blocking ability. He added weight this off-season which will help; to remain on the Panthers roster this is a must have skill for a TE. If his blocking catches up with his catching ability, he could become the starter in another year or two.
100% chance of making the roster
Kevin Brock (Rookie, Rutgers) 6'5" 255, Age 23: Brock worked hard to make the Rutgers team as a walk on player. He started as a WR but transitioned to a TE after adding 60 lbs. Since Rosario is out of commission Brock was able to get valuable field time and attention during OTA. But while he is no stranger to hard work and the face time on the field was important, his chances of making the roster is very slim. With three capable TE still on the roster from last year, breaking onto the roster would be difficult if not impossible. If the Panthers keep three active TE then even the need for a practice squad TE is slim. However, again if they only keep two, then Brock might get a PS spot.
5% chance of making roster if Rosario isn't ready, 15% chance of PS
Andrew Davie (Rookie, Arkansas) 6'6" 275, Age 26: Davie was picked off waives last week after he was released from the NY Jets, who had picked him up as a UDFA. He was known for his blocking in college, blocking for Darren McFaddenand Felix Jones. He's most likely a training camp body and not much more. Although similar to Brock his best chance will be if Rosario for some reason doesn't make the roster.
5% chance of making roster if Rosario isn't ready, 10% chance of PS
Overall the TE position is pretty set and while I did mention Rosario's surgery several times, from all indications he should return for training camp. If so there is very little doubt as to the position breakdown. The biggest question is if Rosario or Barnidge is the first backup. What's your take does Rosario keep his backup role or does Barnidge edge him out in training camp?