Part two of our training camp preview will feature the offensive line and running backs. Both groups are returning some familiar faces but are also looking to shape things up. The offensive line could look completely different from what we saw last year, and expect the competition at the running back position behind Christian McCaffrey to be extremely competitive.
Training Camp Roster: Christian McCaffrey, Cameron Artis-Payne, Jordan Scarlett, Elijah Holyfield, Elijah Hood, Reggie Bonnafon, Alex Armah (FB)
Christian McCaffrey has the starting spot here solidified, it would take quite the breakthrough for someone to even take a portion of his touches away. You could argue he was Carolina’s best player last season as he finished the season just shy of 2000 total yards with 1,965. Shame on Rivera for not letting him grind that out during meaningless games. At any rate, I would expect his importance to be just as high this season, but would probably expect a dip in his usage. Carolina really ran him into the dirt last season and need to take proactive measures they don’t run him out of gas before he turns 25.
Which makes the battle behind him incredibly important. Cameron Artis-Payne is back for what seems like the 10th season as the staff once again thinks that he “showed some promise” last season. The man is almost 30 years old, I think they need to accept the reality here that it may not work out. Remember when they released C.J Anderson because they liked what CAP was showing them and then CAP touched the ball like maybe 5 times for the rest of the season. Good times!
His main competition however will be against rookies Jordan Scarlett and Elijah Holyfield. The battle between them will very interesting. Both stand at 5’11 and roughly 215 pounds, and have slightly similar paths to the NFL. Holyfield had the better 2018 season while at Georgia, finishing with 1018 rushing yards while Scarlett put up just 776 during his final season at Florida. Scarlett, however, has the luxury of being the Panthers 5th round draft pick while Holyfield comes in as a UDFA. That could give him some leverage when it’s time for the staff to make their decision.
I think they’re very similar backs and will be watching them closely during preseason to see how they perform.
Final Roster Prediction: RBs: McCaffrey, Holyfield, Scarlett, Armah (FB)
Training Camp Roster: Matt Paradis (C), Tyler Larsen (C), Parker Collins (C), Trai Turner (G), Greg Van Roten (G), Ian Silberman (G), Kitt O’Brien (G), Dorian Johnson (G), Taylor Hearn (G), Brandon Greene (G), Kofi Amichia (G), Taylor Moton (OT), Daryl Williams (OT), Greg Little (OT), Dennis Daly (OT), Dillon Gordon (OT)
The offensive line this season is a massive puzzle. You’re going to see a lot of guys shifting to new positions as Rivera co. look to find the best five to protect Cam Newton. In my opinion they did an amazing job bringing in Matt Paradis to replace the now retired Ryan Kalil. Paradis has been one of the best centers in the league for several seasons now and should be a great addition to the offensive line. You can lock him in as your starting center. Larsen provides great depth and the ability to play guard so I would expect him to be the Swiss army knife of the group.
Trai Turner is your other lock, as he should have a firm grip on the right guard position. He’s been starting there and producing at a pro bowl level since he was rookie and I would not expect that change any time soon.
The remaining three positions are completely up in the air. My personal suggestion is to have Taylor Moton at right tackle, move Daryl Williams to left guard, and have rookie Greg Little start left tackle and hope he’s everything that you think he is. While Williams had an all pro season at right tackle, I (and many others) am skeptical of keeping him out there. He isn’t very quick off the snap and lost a lot of his battles during his time out there. Add on to that the back to back season ending injuries and it’s worrisome. I think moving him inside benefits him and solidifies the interior offensive line.
Moton filled in for Williams last season at right tackle and did a pretty good job. Some are calling for him to be moved back out to left tackle, where he was before Williams went down to injury but I would keep him out there and let whatever chemistry he and Turner developed on that right side last season continue to grow.
Which leaves rookie Greg Little. Little was seen as one of the top tackle prospects in the draft this year and was the second overall prospect in his class entering college. Of course, that all means nothing as he slipped into the second round where the Panthers were able to nab him. The hope is that he is as talented as the rankings think he is and the Panthers snagged a early first round talent in the second round. That’s the best case scenario, probably not the likely one.. but let’s be positive. I say play him, and hope he figures it out and you may have found your left tackle of the future.
Final Roster Prediction: Starters – Little, Williams, Paradis, Turner, Moton
Everyone Else: Larsen, Van Roten, Daley, Hearn,