This was a big offseason for the Panthers. A team searching for a new identity since the 2020 offseason where the released several fan favorites, the current roster seems to be the starting place for a new foundation. Over 60% of the Panthers roster is on a new contract. Carolina’s average age is 24.7.
Here’s a first look at how the position groups break down after this past week’s cut to 53 players.
After carrying 5 quarterbacks last season, there was no surprise that the Panthers would narrow the roster after drafting QB Justin Fields with the first overall pick. Although Fields is the clear starter and has a more well-rounded skillset, all three quarterbacks have the ability to run Coach JT’s offense if there were an injury to the starter. It’s unclear who would be the first to replace Fields if he were to miss time.
McCaffrey is the starter and will see time in most passing sets. With the average weight of the group currently at 227lbs, Carolina has no shortage of big, bruising tailbacks. The one interesting thing about this group of giant running backs is they can also get to the edge. The team drafted Najee Harris in the second round due to the value at the pick. Harris will serve as a change of pace, short yardage back – he was praised for his ability to plow through the line and truck defenders in camp. Kalen Ballage will spell Harris’ duties if he were to miss time. Tevin Coleman will likely play a big role on special teams. When asked who would be the starter if CMC were to miss time, Coach JT mentioned that Master Teague was the most proficient in the playbook and has a great relationship with fellow Buckeye, Justin Fields. Horvath and Stevenson look to be role players who Coach JT said will see regular season action early and often.
Fullback (0): None
The Panthers released Alex Armah this past offseason. In sets you would typically see a fullback, tailback Zander Horvath and tight end Tommy Tremble will be used in those instances.
Wide receivers (6): DJ Moore, Curtis Samuel, Robby Anderson, Chris Olave, Corey Sutton, Dan Chisena
Moore, Samuel, and Anderson all solidified their spots as Field’s top three targets. While Chisena is in line to be a special teams player, he demonstrated an ability to contribute on offense. The Panthers brought in one Justin Fields’ favorite target at Ohio State in Chris Olave. Olvage had a great preseason and will spell Samuel in the slot. Appalachian State alumni Corey Sutton had a very strong camp, taking advantage of his opportunities to make impressive catches. Although he impressed in camp and in preseason the Panthers could not make room for WR Isaiah Coulter, however, Coulter looks to be the first call the team would make if any of the current receivers were to miss and extended amount of time.
Tight ends (3): Jesse James, Tommy Tremble, Caleb Wilson
Rookie Tommy Tremble from Notre Dame joins the team and looks to be the starter after a notable preseason. Caleb Wilson will be the second tight end and should get a lot of playing time as the Panthers will deploy a few 2 tightend sets this season. Veteran Jesse James will serve as the third TE.
Offensive line (9): Greg Little, Landon Young, Josh Sills, Matt Paradis, Orlando Umana, Garrett Bolles, Taylor Moton, Nick Harris, Yosuah Nijman
Carolina kept nine offensive linemen on the active roster, with four reserves behind the starting five. The position has been hit hard during the preseason, with starters Taylor Moton and Orlando Umana missing an extended amount of time. Freak athlete Yosuah Nijman was injured the preseason as well and was put on injured reserve. Coach JT has consistently praised Greg Little, a 2019 second-round pick and now starter at left tackle. The Panthers added 4 lineman that were 23 years old or younger who look to be foundation of the group for the next few seasons.
Defensive line (7): Derrick Brown, Brian Burns, Yetur Gross-Matos, Derek Rivers, Aaron Sterling, Danny Shelton, Isaiahh Loudermilk
The Panthers will have a strong rotation up front, alternating between a 3 and 4 man front. Brown, Burns, and Gross-Matos figure to be heavy contributors. Loudermilk can play both end and tackle, depending on the weekly matchup. Rivers, Shelton, and the rookie Sterling also provide depth.
Linebacker (8): Shaq Thompson, Payton Wilson, Raekwon McMillan, Zane Zandier, Josh Ross, Jordan Willis, Jermaine Carter Jr, Dax Hollifield
McMillan and Thompson will play most of the snaps at linebacker. Carter is back after making five starts for Carolina last year, but Jordan Willis has impressed coaches since rejoining the Panthers in free agency. Payton Wilson, Zane Zandier, Josh Ross, and Dax Hollifield look to play a lot of reps as Carolina went heavy on linebacker in the draft – they are hoping at least two of these become starters by the end of the season. Hollifield and Zandier look to be favorites for early playing time.
Defensive backs (9): Tre Boston, Donte Jackson, Troy Pride Jr., Jeremy Chinn, Eli Apple, Quincy Wilson, Josiah Scott, Anthony Harris, Steven Nelson
While Chinn is listed as a defensive back, he’ll do much more. The Panthers still have not named a starter at cornerback opposite Jackson. However, Pride and Apple are the known contenders. Free agent pickups Scott and Wilson provide depth. Scott, in particular, flashed at times during camp proving to be a ballhawk. Anthony Harris was acquired in Free Agency and looks to be the starter at the free safety position.
Specialists (2): Robbie Gould, Michael Palardy
Gould comes in on a team friendly deal to be the team’s kicker after the team could not come to terms with NFC kicker of the year Joey Slye.