After the Panthers made their first round of cuts Monday, general manager Marty Hurney said the team still had another wave of tough decisions to make to get the roster from 75 to 53 by the end of the week.
Before Friday’s deadline, a look at the likely locks, cuts and bubble guys for the Panthers at each position (projected roster spots are noted in parentheses):
Locks (2): Cam Newton, Derek Anderson
Bubble (1): Jimmy Clausen
Clausen was inactive for every game last year, but won praise from Ron Rivera for his professional approach on the sideline and in the meeting room. Clausen has been awful during the preseason, but the Panthers are expected to keep all three quarterbacks.
RUNNING BACKS (4)
Locks (4): DeAngelo Williams, Jonathan Stewart, Mike Tolbert, Richie Brockel
Bubble: Tauren Poole
Cuts: Armond Smith
With Tolbert, a versatile fullback who can run and block, there is really no need to keep Poole as a third tailback. Poole would seem a likely candidate for the practice squad. Brockel’s versatility and skills on special teams get him on the team.
WIDE RECEIVERS (6)
Locks (5): Steve Smith, Brandon LaFell, Louis Murphy, Kealoha Pilares, Joe Adams
Bubble (1): Armanti Edwards, Seyi Ajirotutu
Cuts: Lamont Bryant, Jared Green
When David Gettis was placed on the physically unable to perform list, it essentially assured a spot for Edwards or Ajirotutu. Ajirotutu has added value as a special teams contributor. Edwards’ fate seemed to be sealed when the Panthers drafted Adams as their punt returner.
TIGHT ENDS (3)
Locks (3): Greg Olsen, Gary Barnidge, Ben Hartsock
Cuts: Nelson Rosario, Joe Jon Finley
The Panthers kept three tight ends last year, four counting Brockel. With Barnidge more of a receiver than a blocker, Hartsock becomes essential.
OFFENSIVE LINE (8)
Locks (7): Jordan Gross, Amini Silatolu, Ryan Kalil, Geoff Hangartner, Byron Bell, Bruce Campbell, Mike Pollak
Bubble (1): Garry Williams, Matt Reynolds
Cuts: Bryant Browning, Jeff Byers, Zack Williams, Justin Wells
Campbell, acquired from Oakland for Mike Goodson during the offseason, is back at his more natural position of tackle, and can play either side. Pollak is a swing player who can line up at guard and center. Garry Williams has experience at guard and tackle, although coaches like Reynolds, a 26-year-old rookie from BYU.
DEFENSIVE LINE (9)
Locks (8): Charles Johnson, Ron Edwards, Terrell McClain, Greg Hardy, Thomas Keiser, Sione Fua, Antwan Applewhite, Frank Alexander
Bubble (1): Frank Kearse, Ogemdi Nwagbuo
Cuts: Nate Chandler, Ryan Van Bergen
Other: Andre Neblett will start season on reserve/suspended list.
Because of all the situational packages, the Panthers need a lot of bodies up front. Keiser has shown during the preseason he is a valuable, edge rusher who needs to be on the field on third downs. Applewhite is involved in several packages, as well as special teams. Kearse’s size upside gets him the final spot.
Locks (6): Jon Beason, Luke Kuechly, James Anderson, Thomas Davis, Jordan Senn, Jason Phillips
Bubble (2): Kenny Onatolu, Jason Williams, Kion Wilson
Cuts: David Nixon
Onatolu, who is currently sidelined with a hamstring injury, was brought in to boost the special teams. Provided his hamstring improves, he is on the team. Williams, who just returned from a hyperextended elbow, gets the last spot over Wilson.
DEFENSIVE BACKS (9)
Locks (6): Chris Gamble, Captain Munnerlyn, Charles Godfrey, Haruki Nakamura, Sherrod Martin, Josh Norman
Bubble (3): Josh Thomas, R.J. Stanford, D.J. Campbell, Reggie Smith
Cuts: Jordan Pugh, Jonathan Nelson, Darius Butler
Backup cornerbacks Thomas and Stanford both have been strong, as has Smith at safety. Each has a good chance of making the opening-week roster. Rookie safety Campbell, the Panthers’ seventh-round pick, could be one of the last cuts.
Locks (3): Justin Medlock, Brad Nortman, J.J. Jansen
The Panthers went with the unproven, but strong legs of Medlock and Nortman, cutting Olindo Mare and Nick Harris.