Kelvin Benjamin’s season-ending injury might do more than throw a huge wrench into the Panthers’ offensive plans and wide receiver rotation.
It also could have ripple effect throughout the roster. With the void left by Benjamin, do general manager Dave Gettleman and coach Ron Rivera keep an extra receiver on the 53-man roster or do they keep five receivers as they did to open the past two seasons?
The Panthers training camp has wrapped up, but there’s a lot still to be determined before teams the looming cut deadlines. Teams must trim their rosters from 90 players to 75 by Sept. 1, with the final cut-down to 53 on Sept. 5.
Because of publishing deadlines, the Observer’s first 53-man roster projection was done prior to Saturday’s second exhibition against Miami.
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Quarterbacks (3): Cam Newton, Derek Anderson, Joe Webb
Comment: Rivera said in no uncertain terms in Spartanburg the Panthers would carry three quarterbacks. That was before Benjamin’s injury, which would seem to make Webb’s spot even more secure given his ability to fill in at receiver.
Running backs (5): Jonathan Stewart, Mike Tolbert, Fozzy Whittaker, Cameron Artis-Payne, Jordan Todman
Comment: Undrafted rookie Brandon Wegher turned heads with his performance during the exhibition at Buffalo. He seems to be bound for the practice squad, but he’ll make things interesting if he keeps breaking long runs.
Wide receivers (5): Jerricho Cotchery, Ted Ginn, Devin Funchess, Corey Brown, Brenton Bersin
Comment: Rivera says the Panthers are sticking with the wideouts they have for now. But Gettleman will be keeping a close eye on the waiver wire at cut time, and could even look to trade for a proven receiver.
Tight ends (4): Greg Olsen, Ed Dickson, Richie Brockel, Brandon Williams
Comment: Williams missed all of camp following groin surgery in July. His blocking presence will be valuable, with Olsen and Dickson expected to get a lot of passes thrown their way.
Offensive linemen (9): Michael Oher, Andrew Norwell, Ryan Kalil, Trai Turner, Mike Remmers, Nate Chandler, Jordan McCray, Brian Folkerts, Daryl Williams.
Comment: Amini Silatolu’s versatility – he can play guard and tackle – won’t matter much if he can’t get on the field. McCray has taken advantage of the increased reps he’s received with Silatolu sidelined with a calf strain.
Defensive line (9): Charles Johnson, Star Lotulelei, Kawann Short, Mario Addison, Wes Horton, Kony Ealy, Colin Cole, Dwan Edwards, Rakim Cox.
Comment: There was no official announcement, but DE Frank Alexander sustained what appeared a significant foot injury in the first quarter against Miami and had to be carted into the locker room.
Linebackers (6): Luke Kuechly, Thomas Davis, Shaq Thompson, A.J. Klein, Jason Trusnik, Adarius Glanton.
Comment: The competition for the final spot is one of the Panthers’ best battles. Glanton gets the slight nod here over David Mayo and Ben Jacobs because of special teams, but stay tuned.
Secondary (9): Josh Norman, Charles Tillman, Roman Harper, Kurt Coleman, Tre Boston, Bené Benwikere, Colin Jones, Melvin White, T.J. Heath.
Comment: The depth after Benwikere at corner is shaky, and could prompt Gettleman to seek outside help at the position. Heath has been a pleasant surprise since signing this month, but needs more consistency.
Specialists (3): Graham Gano, Brad Nortman, J.J. Jansen
Comment: The Panthers re-signed Matt Wile so Gano and Nortman wouldn’t tax their legs in camp, but barring injury, this group is set.