The NFL draft was recheduled to May, free agency continues and it's hard to see how the Carolina Panthers will look come September. There are some positions that remain wholly intact, while others are barely NFL caliber at this point. The team as constructed today is a shadow of the one we'll see in the regular season, but that doesn't mean we can't look at the current depth chart to get a sense of where the problems lie.
Joe Person of the Charlotte Observer looked at the roster, while adding some important notes about strengths and weaknesses. Now it's our time to do something similar and offer an early grade on how the roster looks.
Note: Depth is based purely on seniority. It's too early to say if one unproved UDFA is better than another, for example. In addition, consider this an incredibly early, way-too-premature look at those likely to make the roster.
Offense (22 players)
|QB||Cam Newton||Derek Anderson|
|RB||DeAngelo Williams||Jonathan Stewart||Kenjon Barner|
|TE||Greg Olsen||Mike McNeill|
|WR1||Jerricho Cotchery||Kealoha Pilares||Marvin McNutt|
|WR2||Tiquan Underwood||Tavarres King|
|LG||Amini Silatolu||Phillipkeith Manley|
|C||Ryan Kalil||Brian Folkerts|
|RG||Edmund Kugbila||Chris Scott|
|RT||Garry Williams||Nate Chandler|
The offense is a total mess right now. Three things are keeping this from being a "D" or worse: Cam Newton, Greg Olsen and the running backs.
Could the answer be on the roster? Maybe, but that's a scary prospect looking at the players as projected. Starters at offensive tackle are bad, and that's generous. Furthermore there's no depth behind them. Looking at the holes on the roster it's clear the draft needs to address both positions. It doesn't have to be in the first two rounds, but the team has to find depth.
Defense (23 players)
|DE1||Greg Hardy||Mario Addison||Wes Horton|
|DT2||Kawann Short||Dwan Edwards|
|DE2||Charles Johnson||Frank Alexander|
|OLB||Chase Blackburn||A.J. Klein|
|MLB||Luke Kuechly||Ben Jacobs|
|OLB||Thomas Davis||Jason Williams|
|CB1||Antoine Cason||Josh Thomas||Josh Norman|
|CB2||Melvin White||James Dockery|
|SS||Roman Harper||Colin Jones|
|FS||Charles Godfrey||Robert Lester|
It's not a terrible grade overall, but even the best defense in the league can't lose three starters and keep their lofty position. Here the biggest problem is the secondary. Melvin White is beloved, but was incredibly inconsistent (as you'd expect from a UDFA), it's unclear if Antoine Cason's problems were location not ability, while Charles Godfrey is a wild card.
The pass rush remains strong, that's the good part -- stopping the pass after the ball has been thrown? That's where it gets ugly.
Special Teams (3 players)
Graham Gano was one of the league's best kickers in 2013, while Brad Nortman broke out as a second year punter. If Ted Ginn was still in the mix this would be an "A" without thinking, but shakiness at both return spots makes projecting the special teams an unknown.
The upside is that outside of losing Jordan Senn the coverage should be okay. Depth linebackers and guys like Colin Jones still being on the roster helps on that end.