Almost three weeks ago I took a premature look at the first round of cuts, but since then much has changed. Jeff Otah was back in Carolina, and has since been cut loose– also, the departure of Nate Ness, Lee Ziemba hitting IR, and an injury to Tauren Poole help shape the cuts.
In just nine days we see the first round of cuts, which will trim the roster to 80 players; far from the biggest cut we'll see this Summer, but significant nonetheless. It's possible a few of these guys will return to the PS, but for now I'm keeping the players who I think are practice squad locks for the final round of cuts. This is where other organizations are less likely to take a flier on a player as they battle their own contraction.
1. Rico Willace, WR
There were some high expectations for the big-bodied, miniscule-schooled WR, but thus far Wallace has failed to get significant reps in practice, or see real game time. Can't blame the Panthers for throwing a lot at the wall, but as it stands this is one of the most likely cuts.
2. Armond Smith, RB
Brought in to help the Panthers add depth at RB following Tauren Poole's concussion, it's unlikely he sticks in Carolina for the second time.
More after the jump
3. David Nixon, LB
Another late roster addition that added depth during preseason. With Thomas Davis reportedly returning to practice, and likely even seeing playing time this week, it's unlikely Nixon makes it through the first cut with the depth of talent the Panthers have at linebacker.
4. Joe Jon Finley, TE
In electing to part ways with Jeremy Shockey there was a need to add more depth at TE as a safety net in case Gary Barnidge didn't look like he could handle the backup job. Thus far Barnidge hasn't been perfect, but enough to hold down the job.
5. Nick Harris, P
While the job is technically open, Ron Rivera has said he wants to get the two kicking jobs wrapped up sooner, rather than later. At kicker the decision is far harder, and has salary cap implecations, while this punter job should be fairly straight forward. Harris has done an admirable job, but this is purely a case of the Panthers moving towards youth.
6. Scott Mruczkowski, C
With Nate Ness hitting the waived/injured list, the Panthers brought in a face from Chargers' past to add preseason depth. Rookie Jeff Byers has looked out of his depth, but I think he might sneak onto the PS for upside alone. Meanwhile the 30-year-old Mruczkowski doesn't really fit into the Panthers' picture.
7. Justin Wells, G
It's possible Wells makes it through and lasts to the PS, but as a developmental guard I'm pegging Will Blackwell for that role.
8. Michael Avila, WR
The Panthers have been trying to utilize the slight Avila on special teams this preseason, but thus far he's had little effect. More speedster than anything else, it's hard to imagine he'll make it thought the 8/30 cut.
9. Jonathan Nelson, S
As it stands the Panthers are carrying seven safetieis, and that number will see significant cuts over the next few weeks. Nelson is the first.
10. Greg Smith, TE
Another cut at TE rounds out the group. Like Finley list above, there's just no room right now for Smith.