Carolina Panthers 2014 depth chart: Taking an early look at opening day

Dak Dillon-US PRESSWIRE

What could the roster look like on opening weekend? We take a premature look.

The draft is over and now the work begins. There's a lot that will change between now and September, with most of the battles being sorted out at training camp -- so consider this my very early look at the players I think will suit up for the first game of the regular season.

Carolina tends to give a veteran bump early in camp, which is why we often see players start in depth roles and quickly rise. Not all the rookies will start, in fact I'm only penciling in Trai Turner right now. A lot could change in this regard.

Offense (26)

QB: Cam Newton/ Derek Anderson/ Joe Webb

RB: DeAngelo Williams/ Jonathan Stewart/ Tyler Gaffney/ Kenjon Barner

FB: Mike Tolbert

WR: Jerricho Cotchery/ Kelvin Benjamin/ Tavarres King

WR: Jason Avant/ Tiquan Underwood/ Corey Brown

TE: Greg Olsen/ Ed Dickson

LT: Byron Bell/ Nate Chandler

LG: Amini Silatolu/ Phillipkeith Manley

C: Ryan Kalil/ Brian Folkerts

RG: Trai Turner/ Chris Scott/ Edmund Kugbila

RT: Free Agent Signing/ Garry Williams

Notes:

  • I know Marvin McNutt isn't on here. Look, I totally get why so many have fallen head-over-heels for him, but the more talent scouts I talk to the more believe it's Tavarres King, not McNutt who will win a roster spot. King is younger, showed more potential coming out of college and was a victim of circumstance in Denver, where he was selected with a fifth round pick. Everything will hinge on camp, where I think he'll shine.
  • No, Kelvin Benjamin isn't starting... yet. A raw receiver combined with Cam Newton's rehabilitation puts him behind the eight ball to start immediately. It's important to understand he needs work, which can't occur properly if he's taking on a starter's workload too. Benjamin can win early in the slot, causing huge mismatch problems for nickel corners. That's where I think he excels for at least half a season.
  • Free agent right tackle. There's one position the Panthers need to address during in-camp cuts and that's finding a right tackle. I don't pretend to understand why the team is convinced Byron Bell can play the left, but here we are. The possibility of grabbing a starting right tackle shouldn't be too difficult when teams start to jettison veterans. Two names to look for: Eric Winston and Michael Roos. The latter in particular is almost assured to be leaving Tennessee, and would plug in right now.

Defense (23)

DE: Charles Johnson/ Mario Addison

DE: Greg Hardy/ Kony Ealy

DT: Star Lotulelei/ Colin Cole

DT: Kawann Short/ Dwan Edwards

OLB: Chase Blackburn/ Jason Williams

MLB: Luke Kuechly/ A.J. Klein

OLB: Thomas Davis

CB: Charles Godfrey/ Antoine Cason/ Josh Norman

CB: Melvin White/ Bene Benwikere

SS: Roman Harper/ Tre Boston/ Colin Jones

FS: Thomas DeCoud/ Robert Lester

Notes:

  • Ultimately I see Kony Ealy backing up Greg Hardy when the Kraken slides inside on passing downs. Mario Addison did a good job being spelled with Charles Johnson last year, so there's no reason to fix it.
  • I left one spot on defense open for Frank Alexander when he returns from suspension. The guy messed up, badly -- but I don't see the team releasing him over it.
  • Melvin White showed enough in 2013 to get the nod this year. It allows Cason to play the nickel role out of the gate and if the second-year UDFA struggles, then the veteran can shift over.

Special Teams (3)

K: Graham Gano

P: Brad Nortman

LS: JJ Jansen

KR: Kenjon Barner

PR: Corey Brown

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