Panther Roundup: Ready for Week 1

With the season-opener less than a week away, we recap all of Carolina's moves over the last week. Also, check out the updated injury report and a full unit-by-unit roster analysis.

--The Panthers cut defensive tackles Tank Tyler and Corvey Irvin as part of their 22 roster moves Saturday.

Along with Tyler and Irvin, quarterback Hunter Cantwell, running backs Dantrell Savage and Josh Vaughan, fullback Rashawn Jackson, wide receivers Kenny Moore and Trent Guy, tight end Jamie Petrowski, offensive linemen Rob Petitti, Andrew Crummey and Ray Hisatake, defensive end Eric Moore, linebackers Quinton Culberson, Mortty Ivy and Sean Ware, and cornerbacks C.J. Wilson, R.J. Stanford and Brian Witherspoon were cut.

Also, the team placed guards Duke Robinson and C.J. Davis and safety Aaron Francisco on injured reserve.

The big cuts might have come at the same position as the Panthers chose to keep Nick Hayden and Andre Neblett, an undrafted rookie from Temple, over Tyler and Irvin. The Panthers gave up a fifth-round pick for Tyler last year and Irvin was a third-round pick in 2009 who never played a down here in a regular season game.

"We felt like that was one of the toughest decisions at that spot," general manager Marty Hurney said. "We felt like our competition and our level of play was very good. We thought that all of those guys could help us. We would have been very satisfied to keep everyone of them but you can't do that."

As for Neblett, Hurney said he was the surprise of training camp.

"He was a guy who really surprised us," Hurney said. "Every time he was in games he made plays. Every time he was in there he made something happen."

--The only draft pick cut was cornerback R.J. Stanford. The other nine made the roster, including quarterback Tony Pike and wide receiver David Gettis.

--Dwayne Jarrett, the much-maligned fourth-year receiver from USC, did make the roster along with five other receivers, including Charly Martin, who will fill the role of Wallace Wright. Martin will see action as the No. 3 or 4 receiver and play on special teams.

"I think that Dwayne last year really showed improvement as the year went on," GM Marty Hurney said. "I think it showed up in some games late last year. This spring and summer he's done everything you can ask for. He's been performing consistently in training camp practices and in games. He's gotten open a couple of times deep but it hasn't worked out. The thing that we always wanted to see in Dwayne was the consistency day-to-day and week-to-week and I think he's shown that. He's a big target with big hands. We kept him because we think he'll help. The receiver position is one you have to be patient with because it takes some time."

Although some fans have been calling for the Panthers to add a No. 2 receiver from outside the organization to help Steve Smith it doesn't look like that's going to happen.

In fact, Hurney seems content to stick with what they have. The plan is to develop the young receivers they drafted.

"A lot of people I've talked to in the fan base are excited about our youth and the energy it brings and watching the development," Hurney said. "Everybody has different opinions but we feel good about our team in general and the young players we have and their skill level. It all begins next week and we'll see how it goes."

--GM Marty Hurney said the decision to keep rookie Tony Pike over Hunter Cantwell as the No. 3 quarterback was a difficult one as well.

"Tony showed the other night a lot of the things we saw from him in college," Hurney said. "He has excellent feet and a great feel for pressure and a great ability to escape things in the pocket and make things happen. We feel like he's a quarterback who has the tools to play in this league and can be developed."

--The Panthers only kept eight offensive linemen after placing guards Duke Robinson (torn MCL) and C.J. Davis (concussion) on injured reserve, even though there's a chance tackle Jeff Otah might not play in the regular season opener Sunday against the New York Giants. Otah has been slow to recover after having his knee scoped over the summer.

One of the players they kept was guard Tim Duckworth, who was just acquired last week.

"He picked things up pretty quick," Hurney said.

--Carolina did keep kickoff specialist Todd Carter, although it will be interesting if the Panthers try to pursue Rhys Lloyd, who was cut Saturday by the Minnesota Vikings.

BY THE NUMBERS: 0 -- Number of offensive touchdowns by the Panthers in the preseason through their first 42 possessions.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "It's not that I'm surprised because we see it in practice. We have guys that are fast, guys that run around and guys that play with good technique. So to me it's not a surprise. For the public it might be a surprise because a lot of people are probably thinking, wow, we didn't know they had this." -- Panthers CB Richard Marshall on the team's top-ranked defense in the preseason.

PLAYER NOTES

--RB Jonathan Stewart said he plans to play in the season opener against the Giants. Stewart led the team in rushing last year and ran for a franchise-record 206 yards against the Giants last December to close down Giants Stadium.

--WR Steve Smith (arm) said he will be ready to play in the season opener against the Giants.

--RT Jeff Otah's status for the regular-season opener against the Giants remains in question. Otah hasn't practiced all camp and has been slow to recover from arthroscopic surgery on his knee. Geoff Schwartz will start if Otah can't go.

--RT Geoff Schwartz helped pave the way for Jonathan Stewart to run for a franchise record 206 yards in the last meeting with the Giants, so he would be a decent option to replace Jeff Otah.

DRAFT PICKS TO STICK

Rd. 2/48, QB Jimmy Clausen, Notre Dame -- Will be the team's No. 2 guy behind Matt Moore.

Rd. 3/78, WR Brandon LaFell, LSU -- Has a chance to start opposite Steve Smith.

Rd. 3/89, WR/KR/PR Armanti Edwards, Appalachian State -- A college quarterback, he's making the transition to receiver and returner at the next level. That will take time. He could be used in Wildcat packages, which would be a nice wrinkle in an otherwise conservative offensive scheme run by Jeff Davidson.

Rd. 4/124, LB/DE Eric Norwood. South Carolina -- Will see action at linebacker and on special teams and could line up at defensive end and rush the passer, too.

Rd. 6/175, DE Greg Hardy Ole Miss -- He's been a camp shocker. Outstanding preseason and looks like a real stud defensive end who'll be around for years to come.

Rd 6/202 S Jordan Pugh, Texas A&M -- Will be a backup safety and see action on special teams.

UNIT BY UNIT ANALYSIS

QUARTERBACKS: Starter -- Matt Moore. Backups -- Jimmy Clausen, Tony Pike.

Moore gets his shot at a starting job with Jake Delhomme vanquished to Cleveland. Moore is 6-2 lifetime as an NFL starter but struggled in the preseason with his top weapon Steve Smith on the sidelines. He doesn't have much to work with other than Smith as the Panthers are young at receiver. Clausen is clearly the No. 2 quarterback at this point and really isn't a threat to take Moore's job right away. However, if the Panthers are struggling at midseason they may ponder making a change, but otherwise Moore should have a pretty long leash. Pike, a sixth-round pick, beat out Hunter Cantwell for the No. 3 spot.

RUNNING BACKS: Starters -- RB DeAngelo Williams, FB Tony Fiammetta. Backups -- RB Jonathan Stewart, RB Mike Goodson, RB Tyrell Sutton.

The Panthers are stacked at running back with Williams and Stewart each coming off 1,100-yard seasons, the first running back duo in league history to accomplish that in the same season. Stewart hasn't played in the preseason while healing from a foot injury, but should be fine for the regular season. Goodson and Sutton, who are both talented, will battle for reps on third down. They give the Panthers the deepest backfield in the league. Fiammetta takes over as the starting fullback after the team dumped 10-year veteran Brad Hoover this offseason. Hoover had the eyes of a running back and was great at opening holes, so it will be interesting if the running game drops off with Fiammetta leading the way.

TIGHT ENDS: Starter -- Jeff King. Backups -- Dante Rosario, Gary Barnidge.

The Panthers don't really have a true starter here as all three guys see significant playing time. All three are former fifth-round draft picks and each brings his own unique strengths to the table. King is the best blocker of the bunch, while Barnidge can stretch the field and Rosario has good hands and a knack for getting open. Last year, King had 25 catches for 200 yards and three touchdowns; Rosario had 26 catches for 313 and two scores and Barnidge had 12 catches for 242 yards, averaging 20.2 yards per catch. The Panthers like to use Rosario as an H-back.

WIDE RECEIVERS: Starters -- Steve Smith, Brandon LaFell. Backups -- Dwayne Jarrett, Armanti Edwards, Charly Martin, David Gettis.

This position is very much unsettled heading into the regular season as nobody has stepped up to claim the No. 2 receiver spot. Adding to the uncertainty on who will make the roster is the season-ending shoulder injury suffered in the preseason by Wallace Wright, who looked to have cemented the No. 3 receiver spot. LaFell and Jarrett now find themselves competing for the starting spot with no clear leader. Jarrett has been a disappointment for three seasons, and LaFell is a rookie who's just getting his feet wet and his hands may be a little shaky. Edwards is a former college quarterback who is making the transition to receiver at the NFL level, so he will need time. Wallace's injury could open the door for Martin, who is a try-hard guy who impressed coaches in practice last year.

OFFENSIVE LINEMEN: Starters -- LT Jordan Gross, LG Travelle Wharton, C Ryan Kalil, RG Mackenzy Bernadeau, RT Jeff Otah. Backups -- T/G Geoff Schwartz, OT Garry Williams.

Carolina's offensive line has been together now for a few years and they're very good at run blocking, but not particularly great against the blitz. That's something they need to improve upon this year. They allowed 33 sacks last year, far too many for an experienced line. Gross is steady and returns from a broken ankle that ended his season early last year. Otah is his bookend, but he's missed all of training camp with a knee injury. He should be good to go by the regular season opener. If not, Schwartz will start at right tackle. Kalil went to the Pro Bowl as a second alternate last year and Wharton is steady. The only spot up for grabs is right guard, where Bernadeau has spent the entire preseason. But when Otah returns, Schwartz could slide over to compete. Overall though this is a pretty strong unit.

DEFENSIVE LINEMEN: Starters -- LE Charles Johnson, LT Louis Leonard, RT Ed Johnson, RE Tyler Brayton. Backups -- DE Everette Brown, DE Greg Hardy, DT Derek Landri, DT Nick Hayden, DT Andre Neblett.

Julius who? The Panthers got good production from all five defensive ends in the preseason as each had at least two sacks through three preseason games, and they have everyone forgetting Julius Peppers was ever here. The team had 18 in their first three games. Johnson is locked in as a starter, but Brown could compete and overtake Brayton, who is recovering from a sprained ankle. Hardy, a sixth-round pick out of Ole Miss who was once ranked by Sports Illustrated as the top pick in the 2010 NFL Draft, has been terrific and has shown star potential. He'll be in the rotation. Both starting defensive tackle spots remain up for grabs following the offseason departures of Damione Lewis, Maake Kemoeatu and Hollis Thomas. It's anybody's guess who starts, but the three rotating in are Leonard, Johnson and Landri.

LINEBACKERS: Starters -- WLB Jon Beason, MLB Dan Connor, SLB James Anderson. Backups -- OLB Jamar Williams, OLB/DE Eric Norwood, MLB Jordan Senn, WLB Thomas Davis (PUP).

Davis will miss at least the first six weeks and probably longer while trying to hurry back from his second torn ACL in his knee. In the meantime, Beason has moved over to the weak side and Dan Connor is starting in the middle. The defense has looked exceptional in the preseason, so it's hard to complain about the job they've done. Still, Connor could be a liability in pass coverage. Anderson takes over at the strong side after filling in for Davis on the weak side the second half of last year. The depth is fairly weak behind the current starting three, but Williams brings some experience. Norwood is a rookie who will be used some as a pass rushing defensive end. The team likes Senn for his special teams ability.

DEFENSIVE BACKS: Starters -- LCB Chris Gamble, RCB Richard Marshall, FS Charles Godfrey, SS Sherrod Martin. Backups -- CB Captain Munnerlyn, CB Robert McClain, CB C.J. Wilson, S Jordan Pugh, S Marcus Hudson.

Gamble, Marshall and Munnerlyn may be the fastest trio of corners the Panthers have ever had. Munnerlyn is the nickel back and shined as a rookie last year. Gamble and Marshall are solid. The fourth and fifth corner spots remain up in the air, but the Panthers seem to like McClain, a seventh-round pick. At safety, Godfrey returns for a third season as a starter while Martin takes over for Chris Harris, who was traded back to Chicago. Pugh, a sixth-round pick from Texas A&M is well thought of and has great leadership ability. Hudson was added as a free agent because of his special teams ability.

SPECIAL TEAMS: PK John Kasay, P Jason Baker, LS J.J. Jansen, KOR Mike Goodson, KOR Todd Carter, PR Armanti Edwards, PR Captain Munnerlyn.

Baker is having a great season punting the ball and Kasay is as reliable as ever. The return game has been a mess, although Goodson did take one back 91 yards for a score, possibly solidifying that spot. The team would like Edwards to win the punt return job but it's been an adventure for him as he transitions from college quarterback. Munnerlyn might be the safer option. Guy is also a possibility. Carter is likely to be the teams kickoff specialist, replacing Rhys Lloyd, who signed with Minnesota.

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