The Carolina Panthers’ first round of cuts could come as soon as Sunday, two days before the deadline for teams to trim their 90-man preseason rosters to 75 players.
General manager Dave Gettleman in past years has let players go in advance of the deadline rather than have them practice a couple more times with their fate already decided.
The final 53-man roster must be set by Sept. 5 following the last exhibition at Pittsburgh.
Gettleman and coach Ron Rivera have to figure out how to best utilize the last few roster spots, and a player’s special teams abilities could be a deciding factor. That means reserves such as cornerback Teddy Williams and running back Jordan Todman likely will be in Jacksonville in Week 1.
The Observer’s second roster projection, with changes from last week noted in bold:
Quarterbacks (3): Cam Newton, Derek Anderson, Joe Webb
Comment: Say this for Webb: He is never boring when he gets in an exhibition. More importantly: He had the key block to spring Ted Ginn for a 32-yard punt return against New England.
Running backs (5): Jonathan Stewart, Mike Tolbert, Fozzy Whittaker, Cameron Artis-Payne, Jordan Todman
Comment: The Panthers only kept four backs last year, but who do you cut? Whittaker and Artis-Payne both ran well against the Patriots, and Todman is too valuable on special teams to release.
Wide receivers (5): Jerricho Cotchery, Ted Ginn, Devin Funchess, Corey Brown, Brenton Bersin
Comment: Fans were calling for Brown’s head after his three drops against the Patriots, but Rivera made it clear the team is sticking with him. Jarrett Boykin continues to put pressure on Bersin for the final spot, but the coaches seem to prefer Bersin.
Tight ends (4): Greg Olsen, Ed Dickson, Richie Brockel, Brandon Williams
Comment: Williams returned last week after missing the first three weeks of the preseason following groin surgery. Tip for fantasy owners: Draft Olsen, who was targeted nine times vs. New England.
Offensive linemen (9): Michael Oher, Andrew Norwell, Ryan Kalil, Trai Turner, Mike Remmers, Nate Chandler, Amini Silatolu, Chris Scott, Daryl Williams.
Comment: Backup center Brian Folkerts struggled against the Patriots, and that was before injuring his ankle and being carted off. Chandler is helping his case with his play on special teams.
Defensive line (9): Charles Johnson, Star Lotulelei, Kawann Short, Mario Addison, Wes Horton, Kony Ealy, Colin Cole, Dwan Edwards, Kyle Love.
Comment: Defensive end Rakim Cox’s production and reps have fallen off since the first exhibition against Buffalo. And with Lotulelei still out with a foot injury, look for the Panthers to keep Love as insurance at defensive tackle.
Linebackers (7): Luke Kuechly, Thomas Davis, Shaq Thompson, A.J. Klein, Jason Trusnik, Adarius Glanton, David Mayo.
Comment: Mayo, the fifth-round pick from Texas State, might have opened some eyes with his play against the Patriots. Mayo had three tackles, and assisted on a special teams stop.
Secondary (8): Josh Norman, Charles Tillman, Roman Harper, Kurt Coleman, Tre Boston, Bene’ Benwikere, Colin Jones, Teddy Williams.
Comment: Williams is a liability in coverage, but he’s involved in virtually every special teams phase. Melvin White looks to be out at corner. But don’t rule out undrafted safety Dean Marlowe if Panthers keep an extra defensive back instead of a linebacker.
Specialists (3): Graham Gano, Brad Nortman, J.J. Jansen
Comment: Gano, who was bothered by a back injury last preseason, is 7-for-7 on field goals and has made all of his 33-yard, extra points.