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Panthers 2022 season opener countdown: 81 days to go

We’re counting down the days until the Panthers kick off the 2022 season.

NFL: JAN 09 Panthers at Buccaneers Photo by Cliff Welch/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

We’re 81 days away from the Panthers 2022 season opener, so that means today’s countdown piece is devoted to No. 81 on the roster — wide receiver C.J. Saunders.

The Panthers signed the 25-year-old Saunders (5’10, 190) as an undrafted free agent after the 2021 NFL Draft. He played college football at Ohio State, where he started as a walk-on cornerback in 2016. He moved to wide receiver and earned a scholarship in 2017. In two seasons at receiver he totaled 27 catches for 294 yards and 1 touchdown. He was named a captain in 2019, but did not play due to injury. He was also a three-time All-Academic Big 10 honoree.

He appeared in two games for the Panthers in 2021 and tallied 2 receptions for 11 yards in the season finale against the Buccaneers. He signed a reserve/future contract in January.

Saunders will be competing for a 53-man roster spot at wide receiver with Andre Roberts, Derek Wright, Charleston Rambo, Andrew Parchment, Rashard Higgins, Keith Kirkwood and Ra’Shaun Henry. There are four roster spots that are all but guaranteed with DJ Moore, Robbie Anderson, Terrace Marshall and Brandon Zylstra already on the depth chart*, but there are likely two more spots up for grabs if the Panthers carry six receivers on the final roster.

Saunders will be in one of the biggest roster competitions throughout the summer, so he will have his work cut out for him if he wants to make the team. With a solid training camp and preseason he has a decent chance to find a spot on the final roster. If he doesn’t make the 53-man roster, he is a solid candidate for a practice squad spot.

What are you expecting from Saunders this year, Panthers fans? Will he make the 53-man roster? Share your thoughts with us!

*- I did not include Shi Smith on this list because of his pending legal status. The Panthers have not made a statement on his standing with the team since he was released on bond after his arrest for unlawful handgun and drug possession in March.