Football is rapidly approaching, we’re like what? 3 weeks away from the Hall of Fame game and training camp kicks off at the end of next week. If you haven’t already been, it’s time to get excited about what this season may hold for your Carolina Panthers, and those of us at the Queen’s Guard think the ceiling is the roof!
We have some interesting position battles that are going to be happening this camp as the offensive line is being reshaped, the defense takes on a new look and the skill positions look to iron out their kinks. Today I’ll start on the offensive side of the ball with the Quarterbacks, Receivers and Tight Ends. I think it’s safe to say the starters for these groups are pretty much set in stone, but depth is the big question here.
Let’s take a look at the signal callers.
Training camp roster: Cam Newton, Will Grier, Kyle Allen, and Taylor Heinicke
I’m going to be honest real quick. If you think there’s an actual QB controversy for the starting spot then you should probably call it quits on watching football. That spot belongs to Newton, assuming he is healthy, the team goes as he goes. The only reason someone else should be considered for the starting spot at any point during the season is if Newton goes down to injury again, or I guess he comes out this season and is consistently horrid. God forbid either of those happen cause that means this team is in a load of trouble.
I’m confident about Newton’s return this year. We all know last year’s story, 6-2 start, 1-7 finish thanks to the shoulder injury, I’m not going to get into all of that again. Long story short, Newton had this train rolling and was starting to be considered as a real MVP candidate before injuries slowed their roll. If he returns to that level of play WITH the added ability to actually throw the ball downfield again, then watch out, Super Cam might be back.
The battle to be Newton’s backup is going to be the one to keep an eye on this summer. Carolina returns Heinicke and Allen who both got a shot last season when Newton was pulled. Allen (although playing against mostly backups) had the better performance while Heinicke struggled and went down to an injury of his own.
Added to this group is the rookie out of West Virginia (and Charlotte native), Will Grier. As a third round pick Grier is almost certain to make the team, so really the actual roster spot battle should come down to Heinicke and Allen. Who get’s the 2nd string nod however will be interesting to watch. Rivera and co. tend to side with seniority so I wouldn’t be shocked if one of the vets get the nod, but in my humble opinion, Grier should be the front runner.
Roster Prediction: Newton, Grier, Allen
Wide Receivers and Tight Ends
Trainign Camp Roster:
WR: D.J. Moore, Curtis Samuel, Jarius Wright, Chris Hogan, Torrey Smith, Terry Godwin, Aldrick Robinson, Rashad Ross, DeAndrew White, Andre Levrone, and Jermaine Jeanpiere
TE: Greg Olsen, Ian Thomas, Chris Manhertz, Ethan Wolf, Jason Vander Laan, Cole Hunt, Temarrick Hemingway, Marcus Baugh
This years pass catchers might be the best group the team has fielded in… maybe forever? That’s probably me jumping the gun a little bit, but I’m excited about what this group is capable of. I should add Christian McCaffrey in this mix since he’s such a pivotal piece of the passing game, but I’ll focus strictly on receivers and tight ends.
Starting with the wide receivers, everyone’s eyes should be on Moore and Samuel this season. I’ve seen a good bit of fans on the Twitter dot com arguing about which one is better, and people please, they’re both great and better at different things. Assuming both are on the same track as last year, I believe if Moore sees most of his time in the slot and Samuel gets majority of his reps at the X then they’ll be a lethal combination. See this tweet that made me happy below.
This isn’t to say that Moore should get reps from the perimeter, hopefully he’s worked on that this offseason and can add diversity into his game. Last season was basically both of their rookie seasons as well, who knows how much better (hopefully) they will be this season.
The rest of this group is just as important. If I’m running this team I would keep six receivers (they’ll probably keep five, but I’m picking six). I’d assume locks are Moore, Samuel, Wright, and maybe Hogan. Wright was extremely productive last season with what he was asked to do, and should be a good rotational slot guy that Newton can trust to get a first down. Hogan comes in from New England as a guy who’s supposed to be a safe set of hands, something our receivers seem to have lacked over the years…
That leaves Smith, Godwin, Robinson and a bunch of guys I’ve never heard of. All due respect of course. Godwin is an interesting prospect out of Georgia that a lot of fans are excited about. His ability to be a return man might give him more value than others on this list. Smith and Robinson are both deep threats and will probably be facing off head to head for a roster spot. While Smith is the more familiar name, don’t sleep on Robinson to grab that spot from him, he can be a problem for defenses.
As far as the tight ends go, I wouldn’t expect a different group from last season. The likely group will be Olsen, Thomas, and Manhertz. What I’m watching is to see if Thomas can take the leap to the next level. A good portion of people were OK with Olsen retiring and Thomas taking the reigns but I think another year of having Olsen around will benefit him even more. He’ll have a chance to really show out since most teams won’t be keying in on him to start the season.
Final Roster Prediction:
WR: Moore, Samuel, Wright, Hogan, Godwin, Smith
TE: Olsen, Thomas, Manhertz