Carolina Panthers

Has Joe Webb leap-frogged Derek Anderson? Is Damiere Byrd a roster lock? We have answers

Carolina Panthers third-string quarterback Joe Webb has excelled during the preseason, but it is unlikely that he will be promoted to Cam Newton’s backup.
Carolina Panthers third-string quarterback Joe Webb has excelled during the preseason, but it is unlikely that he will be promoted to Cam Newton’s backup. dtfoster@charlotteobserver.com

In a lot of cities and on a lot of campuses, the backup quarterback would win a Mr. Popularity contest hands-down.

That does not seem to be the case in Charlotte based on the questions fans submitted via Twitter for the Observer’s latest Panthers’ mailbag. Derek Anderson didn’t get a lot of love.

But there was a lot of reader interest in quarterbacks and other players a little farther down the depth chart. Without further ado ...

Q. How close is Joe Webb from being No. 2 QB?

A. I get the interest in Webb. I watched the former UAB standout run around and make plays against South Carolina one night in Columbia in 2008, after which coach Steve Spurrier said the Gamecocks didn’t have anyone who could stop Webb.

Webb put on a similar display last weekend against the Titans’ reserves when he threw for a touchdown, flirted with a perfect passer rating and also ran twice for 17 yards.

But the Panthers like Webb in his present role(s) as No. 3 QB/emergency WR/special teams regular. He’s a terrific athlete and a great locker room guy, but Anderson remains the better QB of the two.

Q. At what point do we start worrying about Ryan Kalil? Surgery in November and still hasn’t played.

A. The Panthers have been very careful with Kalil, and for good reason. He tried to play through his shoulder injury last season before aggravating it and undergoing surgery.

And as well as Tyler Larsen played last season and again this preseason, Kalil is still too big a piece for the Panthers to lose in August.

Kalil wore a protective harness on his shoulder for the first of two practices last week, and said at the beginning of training camp he expected to be ready for Week 1 at San Francisco.

The key for Kalil -- like a lot of the team’s older guys -- will be whether he can make it through the season intact.

Q. Are we going to see more of Cameron Artis-Payne with the first-team offense?

A. Like Webb, Artis-Payne is coming off a strong second-half showing against Tennessee. But -- also like Webb -- that likely won’t result in a major move up the depth chart.

Artis-Payne is mostly a straight-ahead runner with a powerful build, and the Panthers have one of those already in Jonathan Stewart. Christian McCaffrey’s arrival also means fewer meaningful carries for Artis-Payne, who isn’t as big a factor on special teams as No. 3 back Fozzy Whittaker.

Depending on whether the Panthers decide to keep a fullback, Artis-Payne could still land a roster spot. If not, he has some good tape for a team in need of a RB to watch.

Former South Carolina Gamecocks receiver has performed well in preseason action with the Carolina Panthers.

Q. Is Damiere Byrd a virtual lock for the sixth receiver spot?

A. It looks that way. Even if the Panthers decide to keep only five wideouts (with McCaffrey the de facto sixth WR), Byrd should be in good shape thanks to his game-breaking speed and return ability.

Brenton Bersin’s shoulder injury came at inopportune time for the former Charlotte Latin and Wofford wideout. Bersin is out this week and his status for the exhibition finale against Pittsburgh is uncertain.

But Bersin’s ability to play all three receiving spots keeps him in the conversation if healthy.

Q. Given the attrition to the depth at the safety positions, what does the plan seem to be going forward? Possible FA help? Staying in-house?

A. Ron Rivera gave a shout-out this week to backup safety Dezmen Southward, who had four tackles against the Titans before leaving with a back injury. L.J. McCray also has helped his roster chances by playing well on special teams.

But yes, I have to think GM Marty Hurney and the team’s pro scouts are doing their homework on veteran safeties who could be unemployed Sept. 2. Stay tuned.

Joseph Person: 704-358-5123, @josephperson

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