Remember the days when after final roster cut down we might add one or two players to the 53 from other team cuts and maybe a couple unknowns to added to the practice squad? These were almost always additions to bolster depth or special teams. That's certainly not the case in 2011 after the offseason got severely shortened due to the lock out. I expected the team to be behind the eight ball with regards to installing schemes on both sides of the ball. What I didn't expect was to still have glaring holes in the starting line up at several positions. But that is our reality and we look at this 53 man roster with the season opener a scant six days away.
Since Saturday the Panthers have added a CB, S, DE, two Gs, WR and tried to add a DT (but failed physical) and most likely still will try to add one again. That's 7 players for those that didn't bother counting. That's on top of the two UDFA's that made the roster (so far). Most of these players can get in the rotation and actually might see the field in week 1.
I fully expected the Panthers to struggle to get their schemes installed with the compressed schedule but I never expected the roster to be in such a state of flux so close to the opener. To be fair the starting line-ups now appear to be fairly intact outside of the mentioned DT position. The Panthers might wait a week but we could certainly and probably will have a new starter on the defensive line come the Green Bay. Boy that will be a trial be fire.
Though the Panthers starting line up appears set in most cases questions marks remain. Will CB Captain Munnerlyn remain the starter past week one? Who going to win the RG spot? Who's the #2 WR? Are we really going to start two rookies at DT? I'll take a stab at these questions...after the jump...
Question 1: Will CB Captain Munnerlyn remain the starter at CB past week 1?
Though the conventional answer is 'No' I think a lot depends on how he plays in week 1. If the Cardinals are able to isolate Munnerlyn on Larry Fitzgerald and make hay I think you'll see the Panthers suddenly decide they need more help. If he performs well and doesn't give up an bad plays they just might let it ride a couple more weeks to see how he fares.
Question 2: Who will start at RG?
Though Max Jean-Gilles seems to be the proto-typical RG with his size and 'road grader' disposition I think in the end Geoff Hangartner's affinty with the other 4 starters on the line will win out. I believe it was James who pointed out that at the end of 2008 the Panthers starters the current line with Hangartner at RG for two games with smashing results. Jean-Gilles might eventually win the spot over time but my guess is 'Piggy' is money in the bank at RG.
Question 3: Who will start at #2 WR?
As much as we have railed on WR Brandon LaFell's inability to impress in the preseason he is still listed at #2 WR on the Panthers depth chart and I don't expect that to change. The fact is with the presence of two effective TE's, Steve Smith and RB's that can catch the ball I don't see a #2 WR getting many targets in OC Rob Chudzinski's offense. Hence the fact LaFell is an ardent blocker and is known for making the critical catch in pressure situations I think he holds onto his job for now.
Question 4: Are we going to start two rookies at DT?
I don't see this happening. Both of the rookies and 2nd year player Andre Neblett will see playing time but we've already seen the Panthers try to bring in a vet DT, although unsuccessfully. Who that is at this point is completely unknown though we've heard rumors of some NG has been looked at. We had better hope so because the DL got gashed during the preseason against the run so you can bet the Cardinals will try run all day long.
Yes my fellow Panther fans it has been a preseason like no other and the craziness is not over. The notion that we will wait one game to bring in a DT so we don't have to guarantee the whole contract smells of 'throwing away' a game for financial reasons. I guess when you're coming off of a 2-14 season with little expectations you can do that. It seems fitting in this whirlwind of activity and unexpected change but I just don't know how to feel about this team with some much up in the air. I guess I'll stick to me 6 win prediction but it's so hard to judge.