When the Panthers training camp kicks off in four weeks there are always plenty of new faces to see and drills to watch as it progresses towards the preseason. The first weekend of camp there will be three things in particular that I will be looking for in order to answer some of top remaining questions.
Question 1: Is RT Jeff Otah a full participant in practice?
The answer to this question will have a cascade effect on the entire right side of the offensive line. If Otah is a full participant we can assume at some point (a week or 2 max) he will take over the RT starting spot. So does Byron Bell then get moved inside to RG? Will Geoff Hangartner instead remain in that spot or will one of the upstarts younf guys like Bryant Browning or Zack Williams instead pair up with Otah? As long as Otah is in there I'll feel better about the o-line. Without him things get questionable at best as we would instead hope Bell continues to improve or Bruce Campbell finally finds his mojo.
More after the jump...
Question 2: What WR is working the 3 receiver sets as the slot receiver?
Ron Rivera has made it clear that Brandon LaFell is the Panthers #2 WR. The common assumption is returning from injury 2010 break out player David Gettis will slide into the slot. My hesitation with that assumption is that Gettis does not appear built for the slot being more of a 'long strider' type of player. That position seems better suited for a guy like Keoloha Pilares who WR Steve Smith recently called a 'fantasy sleeper' for 2012. Armanti Edwards also seems to have the small space 'quicks' to play the slot as well. The other option is to put Gettis on the outside and have Smitty run the slot routes.
Question 3: Which DT is starting next to Ron Edwards?
Because Terrell McClain is coming off of injury he did little during OTAs and mini camp so we don't know if he will return to the starting line up or not. Andre Neblett seems to be the only other choice at the moment as Frank Kearse seems a better fit backing up Ron Edwards. Both Sione Fua or Ogendi Nwagbuo are additional options for the RDT spot but both as well seem better suited for LDT. I'm just not sure who else is more of a one gap penetrator other than McClain and Neblett. Neblett has continued to impress and maybe this is his chance to shine. If he lines up at RDT on day one I think we have our answer.
Additional TC Kick-Off Non-Questions and What I Expect to See at the Start of TC
- CB Captain Munnerlyn will start opposite Chris Gamble at #2 CB well into TC but Brandon Hogan will push him late and might win the job in the end. Though there is plenty of buzz around Josh Norman I'm just not seeing Rivera making a change right out of the gate
- LB Thomas Davis will start as a reserve but see plenty of action during the preseason if healthy. I think the Panthers will want to see if he knee can hold up before committing a roster spot.
- Geoff Hangartner will start at RG but may give way if the Panthers find a better pairing with whoever is starting at RT.
- WR Armanti Edwards will work exclusively at WR and will either make the roster a WR or they Panthers will part ways on the first cut down.
- S Sherrod Martin will start at FS but the position is his to lose and lose it he might. The Panthers are looking for a spark from this spot and either Reggie Smith or Haruki Nakamura seem prime to start. This is one of the top battles of training in my view right behind the #2 CB competition.