Cam Newton possesses superior arm strength and is an imposing physical presence. He struggles with accuracy at times but his finish in 2012 warrants a high grade. Derek Anderson can be trusted in short bursts to spell Cam when necessary.
A healthy Stewart could push this unit to a solid B rating. Tolbert may need to get significant touches if the 3 speed backs cannot mitigate our O-line troubles. Barner’s receiving ability could increase his playing time if we struggle on the ground early.
This group will be in trouble if Smith continues to regress due to age. Ginn is the wildcard here, he can be a weapon if he casts away his previous consistency issues.
Things get dicey beyond Olsen. Williams is a physical specimen but that size has not translated to being an efficient blocker. Hartsock and Brockel add little to the passing game and their importance to our running game is negligible.
Kalil is the only above average lineman under 30. A lot has been written about our inability in pass protection, but the lack of run blocking ability is an even bigger issue. Silatolu needs to show that his preseason struggles are not indicative of his future play.
Our strongest overall group by miles. Alexander, Addison and Horton provide an above average rotation at end. Nose tackle depth is a bit of concern but Star should be an anchor for years.
Avoiding injury is again the key to this being a strong group. Blackburn is the only trustworthy backup if a starter falters. The good news is that if they stay healthy our starting linebacking corps is a force.
Norman is the hope for this unit. We will struggle if his preseason play turns out to be an aberration. The depth behind Godfrey is quite scary, as is the undisciplined play of Mitchell. Rivera has never struck me as a disciplinarian, so it is concerning that our defense has the potential to mimic what they see from our starting strong safety.
Ginn should be a joy to watch and gives us a threat that we have not had in years. Gano has one of the leagues strongest legs and could be shockingly good if his accuracy continues to improve. Nortman will have every chance to improve on his abysmal rookie season.
Biggest Concerns: DB & OL (as expected)
What are your thoughts and/or grades? Which groups may surprise us and have breakout players that can be future building blocks. I think this team has better overall depth than at this point last year, but we still have significant downgrades at several positions if a starter is injured.