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2013 CAROLINA PANTHERS

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Analysis: Guessing at Dave Gettleman’s best 53 for Carolina Panthers’ final 2013 roster

In the final minutes of Thursday’s exhibition game, as the other members of the Carolina Panthers’ front office headed to the visitors locker room at Lincoln Financial Field, general manager Dave Gettleman remained in the press box watching – often through binoculars – the end of Carolina’s 14-9 loss to Philadelphia.

It was a familiar perch for Gettleman during his nearly 30 years as an NFL scout. But in his first stint as a GM, Gettleman’s input this year will carry more weight.

Gettleman said his philosophy in shaping the roster will be to go with the best players available – a familiar draft refrain – rather than get caught up with having set numbers at the various positions.

“You want the best 53 on the roster,” Gettleman said. “If you turn yourself into numbers, the danger is you’ll cut a better player at a position of depth and keep a (lesser) player at a position of weakness.”

The NFL requires teams to trim their rosters from 90 to 75 players by Aug. 27. Final, 53-man rosters must be set by Aug. 31.

Halfway through the exhibition season, most of the Panthers’ starting spots are coming into focus. But Ron Rivera and his staff still have decisions to make at right guard, the third wide receiver position and in the secondary.

As the deadlines for roster cuts approach, the bulk of Gettleman’s work will come further down the roster – such as figuring out whether to keep an extra safety versus an extra linebacker to help on special teams.

Gettleman likes to recount a story about former Buffalo coach Marv Levy telling him “the answer is often on your roster.” While Gettleman looks for those in-house solutions, he’ll also be scouring the cut lists of the other 31 teams to see if he can fill a need.

“We’ve got two more games and we’ll see how it plays out,” Gettleman said.

The Observer takes its first crack at what the Panthers’ 53-man roster will look like.

Quarterbacks (3)

On the roster: Cam Newton, Derek Anderson, Jimmy Clausen

Off: Colby Cameron

Clausen has had a great preseason and is pushing Anderson for the backup spot. The Panthers could potentially go with two quarterbacks, but more than likely will keep three.

Running backs (5)

On: DeAngelo Williams, Jonathan Stewart, Mike Tolbert, Richie Brockel, Kenjon Barner, Armond Smith

Off: Tauren Poole, Mike Zordich (injured)

Stewart, recovering from ankle surgery, has yet to do much running and looks like he’ll start the season on the physically unable to perform list. Poole is a tough, physical runner, but Smith has more value as a special teams player.

Receivers (6)

On: Steve Smith, Brandon LaFell, Ted Ginn Jr., Armanti Edwards, David Gettis, Domenik Hixon

Off: Joe Adams, Kealoha Pilares, Taulib Ikharo, Brenton Bersin, James Shaw, Dale Moss

Hixon has fallen on the depth chart while nursing a hamstring injury, but it’s hard to see Gettleman cutting the former New Yor Giants’ receiver. Adams’ best shot to make the team is as a punt returner, but he has been sidelined by a calf strain.

Tight ends (3)

On: Greg Olsen, Ben Hartsock, Brandon Williams

Off: Dominique Curry, Zack Pianalto

Williams, a former small college basketball player, has brought an extra dimension to the Panthers’ passing game. Olsen remains one of the best receiving tight ends in the league.

Offensive linemen (8)

On: T Jordan Gross, T Byron Bell, G Garry Williams, G Amini Silatolu, C Ryan Kalil, G/C Jeff Byers, G Edmund Kugbila, Free Agent TBD

Off: Chris Scott, Nate Chandler, Garrett Chisolm, Tori Mobley, Bruce Campbell (injured), Brian Folkerts, Patrick Brown, Hayworth Hicks, Justin Wells

Look for Gettleman to bring in a veteran lineman at the end of the month to fortify the team’s thinnest position. It figures to be someone who can play guard and tackle – like Travelle Wharton.

Defensive linemen (9)

On: DE Charles Johnson, DE Greg Hardy, DT Dwan Edwards, DT Star Lotulelei, DT Kawann Short, DE Frank Alexander, DE Mario Addison, DT Colin Cole, DT Frank Kearse

Off: Sione Fua, Casey Walker, Craig Roh, Louis Nzegwu, Wes Horton

If Fua and receiver Pilares get cut, Newton will be the only remaining member of the Panthers’ 2011 draft class. Horton and Nzegwu have been productive; one of them could take the roster spot of Kearse, who’s been hurt.

Linebackers (7)

On: Jon Beason, Luke Kuechly, Thomas Davis, Chase Blackburn, A.J. Klein, Jordan Senn, Jason Williams

Off: Doug Hogue, Ben Jacobs, Ryan Rau

Beason, coming off microfracture knee surgery, hopes to be ready for Week 1 vs. Seattle, even if he has to manage his pain. The signing of Blackburn is one of Gettleman’s best offseason moves.

Defensive backs (9)

On: CB Captain Munnerlyn, CB Drayton Florence, S Charles Godfrey, S Mike Mitchell, CB Josh Thomas, CB Josh Norman, CB D.J. Moore, S Haruki Nakamura, S Colin Jones

Off: D.J. Campbell, Ricardo Silva, James Dockery (injured), Melvin White, Robert Lester, Nick Hixson, Anderson Russell

Campbell, Nakamura and Jones are fighting for the last one or two safety spots. Jones and Nakamura have an edge because of their special teams experience, although Campbell is not out of the running.

Specialists (3)

On: K Graham Gano, P Brad Nortman, LS J.J. Jansen

Off: P Jordan Gay, K Morgan Lineberry

Gano has been long and accurate throughout training camp and the two exhibitions. Nortman wants to be more consistent in his second season.

Joseph Person: 704-358-5123; Twitter: @josephperson

Complete Carolina Panthers coverage from The Charlotte Observer at CharlotteObserver.com/panthers
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