What to Watch for, and Roster Thoughts for Thursday Night's Game

Well fans, tis’ the season for roster cuts!  This past Tuesday, the Panthers trimmed, clipped, and filed down their roster to 75 players, as mandated by the NFL.  Though only 5 players were moved to make this happen, the Panthers must cut 22 more players by Saturday, September the 4th.  The Panthers last preseason game is Thursday night versus the Steelers, and since the starters will likely only see a drive or so of action, the backups will get their chances to shine and make their case to claim a roster spot on this team.  That being said, here are my thoughts on the roster, which positions have the most intriguing competition for roster spots, and what I’ll be looking for during the game…



Matt Moore and Jimmy Clausen have seen the bulk of preseason action and are presumably number 1 and 2 on the QB depth chart, respectively.  Backups Hunter Cantwell and especially Tony Pike have had few chances to play, and this game, so they will likely see plenty of time.  So far, Hunter Cantwell seemingly has the lead for the backup job, and Tony Pike will have to make a pretty convincing case to beat Cantwell and be the number three QB.  Though it seems like Tony Pike is on the fringes and on the outs, fans seem to be uncomfortable with putting on the practice squad, because of the likelihood that he gets picked up by another team.  Most fans, it seems, would rather put Cantwell on the PS and keep Pike for that very reason.  Some have even contemplated cutting both and using Armanti Edwards as the reserve QB.

In my opinion, I think Cantwell has the number three job as it stands now, and unless Tony Pike lights up the field, he will most likely be put on the PS.  It is tough to speculate as to whether Pike or Cantwell would be picked up if put on the PS, but the Panthers coaches seem more comfortable with Cantwell under center than Pike.  Case in point is the snap distribution, as Cantwell has thrown the ball 17 times, whereas Pike has only thrown ONCE! In the end, I think the Panthers will keep the QB who they feel most comfortable with, the one that gives them the best chance to win, (if Moore or Clausen went down…god forbid) and that’s most likely Cantwell.  Do the Panthers take into consideration who will get picked up on the PS if placed there?  Probably.  However, I don’t think it is enough to sway their decision.  Therefore, I think Tony Pike has to have a pretty darn convincing case Thursday night to stay on this team or Cantwell has stink, otherwise the job is probably Cantwell’s.  And as for the Panthers cutting both and using Edwards as reserve QB, I personally think it would be a smart way to save a roster spot, however the Panthers prefer pocket passers.  Although Clausen may see significant time, look at Cantwell and more so at Pike’s performance (being that the job is Cantwell’s to lose) to determine who is the third QB…

Running Backs:

Not much needs to be said here, as Williams and Stewart are locks to make the team.  Additionally, Sutton proved his worth in his few carries last year, and Goodson made his case against the Titans with a kick return for TD and some impressive running.  Although Josh Vaughan has been impressive, he’s headed for the PS, simply because there is no room for him.   Goodbye Dantrell Savage.  Should be interesting to see Goodson make a bigger case for himself and Vaughan make a case for PS…

Wide Receiver:

As I see it, Smith, Jarrett, LaFell, and Edwards are locks to be on this team.  Smitty is a pro bowler, although Jarrett is spurned by many fans he is better than many of the Panthers other options, LaFell has shown promise, and Edwards has too much potential to let go.  While the Panthers have kept as little as four WRs and as many as six or so, the Panthers will likely go with either 5 or 6.  Personally, I think they’ll go with six, simply because they will probably utilize more 3 and 4 WR sets this year with Matt Moore.  Although Wallace Wright had the 5th WR spot, his injury leaves his spot open.  So that leaves one or two spots open. 

Here is where I think is the most competition for roster spots.  The candidates are Kenny Moore, Charly Martin, Trent Guy, and David Gettis.  Kenny Moore, the local product and fan favorite to make it, has so far demonstrated little with the many drops he has had.  Although he looked good initially at camp, he hit a plateau, and his stock has dropped ever since.  Charly Martin has just recovered from a broken finger, and will get plenty of time at WR and on special teams.  Trent Guy, who also just recovered from a hamstring injury, showed some promise as a speedy PR and WR in the last game.  Gettis, who is 6-3 and runs a 4.39 40, caught 3 in the last game and looks very promising. 

So what does it come down to?  In my opinion, Kenny Moore has been given his chance this year and last, and unless he really shines, won’t make the cut.  Guy, although very speedy and quick, hasn’t impressed enough to claim a roster spot over the others.  To me, it really comes down to either Martin or Gettis.  Gettis is super fast and has size, and if he has a solid game will make a case for this spot, although I give the edge to Martin if he looks just as solid.  Martin has to get the edge in my opinion because of his ST potential, and with Wright out, he may be stepping into Wright’s role.  All in all though, whoever has the better game between Moore, Martin, Gettis, and Guy might take the last one or two roster spots.  It’s all up to them, so keep an eye out for this position…

Offensive Line:

CJ Davis, Duke Robinson, and Garry Williams will most likely be the OL backups.  So it looks like Rob Pettiti, Andrew Crummey, Ray Histaake, and Tim Duckworth will probably be on the outs.  Not sure if there will be much to watch for here.

Tight Ends:

The Panthers love their trio in King, Rosario, and Barnidge. Nuff said.  Buh-bye Jamie Petrowski!

Defensive Ends:

The only way Brown, Brayton, Johnson, and Hardy don’t make the roster is if one gets put on the IR, and it doesn’t look like that’ll happen.  With a preseason leading 18 sacks, they’ve all shown enough promise that it looks like we have FOUR Peppers.  With Hilee Taylor now on the IR, Eric Moore is the only player in question.  He’s the fifth man, and on the fringes although he has played lights out in all three games so far.  If he has another sack or a solid game, I think it would be tough for the Panthers to let him walk or put him on the PS.  Even if he doesn’t do spectacularly, he’ll probably still be on the team.  Watch for DE’s to continue to get after ‘em and for Moore to keep making a case for himself in this game…

Defensive Tackles:

Although we don’t have any returning starters from last year, Tank Tyler, Louis Leonard, and Ed Johnson have looked solid-enough to claim spots here.  Newcomer Derek Landri has also seen significant time with the ones, and will also make the team.  That’s four that’ll most likely make the team.  Nick Hayden, Corvey Irvin, and Andre Neblett haven’t shown much and are the odd men out.  With Charles Johnson and Brayton able to play inside, it is also not looking good for these guys.  Unless one of them becomes Albert Hayneworth in this game, some will probably be shown the door out to the streets or and some will be shown the door to the PS…


Beason, Connor, and Anderson start, and Norwood and Jamar Williams will probably be kept as backups.  That leaves Mortty Ivy, Quinton Culberson, Jordan Senn, and Sean Ware fighting for one or two backup spots.  With this group of unknowns, I really can’t say who I think has the edge because I haven’t seen much.  So it should be interesting to see if any LBs make a name for themselves.  It may come down to versatility and who can play any LB  spot, or ST contribution, or talent and promise, or whoever has the biggest contributions thus far, I really don’t know.  Unless these linebackers either have a great or terrible night, the fighting for roster spots here shouldn’t be too glamorous…

Defensive Backs:

Gamble and Marshall start at CB, and Munnerlyn is presumably the nickel back here again.  The competition behind these CBs should be interesting.  Brian Witherspoon had two picks and a solid ST contribution last game, and the rookies RJ Stanford and Robert McClain have been impressive.  Fourth year player CJ Wilson also has a good amount of experience and seems to have the inside track on the fourth CB.  In my opinion, Brian Witherspoon has done more to make a case for himself (with 7 tackles, 3 passes defensed, and 2 interceptions) than CJ Wilson (3 tackles, 1 pass defensed), although the Panthers seem to always be high on Wilson.  I expect for either Witherpsoon and/or Wilson to make it, and possibly one of the rookies.  Look for big plays (positive or negative) from these guys, because it may have a big impact on who makes it and who doesn’t.  The 4th and 5th CB spots look up in the air at this point, and the competition for these spots should be interesting, so keep an eye out!

As for the Safeties, Godfrey and Martin are locks, so the competition is between rookie Jordan Pugh, Marcus Hudson, and Aaron Francisco.  Jordan Pugh gained a vote of confidence as he was named the starter for the Jets game.  Hudson, has been valuable as a ST-er and as the “Joker” (Meeks’ S/LB hybrid which Dante Wesley manned so aptly last year) so he’ll probably be kept.  Francisco has been injured most of camp and preseason, so he’ll most likely be shown the door. Not too much to watch here, the depth chart is pretty much set…

The Kicking Game:

Kickoff specialist Todd Carter, aka “that Smoothie guy,” will be extra interesting to watch for in this game.  If he boots every ball into the end zone, he’ll surely have a roster spot.  And if he only can kick them to the 20 yard line, he’ll probably still get a roster spot because the Panthers don’t want to burn out Kasay or Baker’s leg, and apparently have tried all of the potential kickoff specialists and Carter was the cream of the crop…

Bottom Line:

Watch the WRs and CBs, those seem to be the places where there are open roster spots and lots of competition...

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