Still a few concerns for Carolina Panthers

August, 14, 2014
Aug 14
8:00
AM ET
CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Despite finding a No. 1 wide receiver in first-round draft pick Kelvin Benjamin and a left tackle in Byron Bell, the Carolina Panthers still have concerns that must be addressed.

But judging by how few roster moves have been made during camp -- two because of retirement and one because of injury -- compared to how many other teams are making, that's a good indication management is happy with the job the personnel department did during the offseason.

"It's a statement," general manager Dave Gettleman said. "Everybody's got a different philosophy. Watching it, it looks to me like what people are doing is they're using training camp to give multiple back end of the roster guys tryouts and workouts, bringing them in for three, four days and then rolling them over."

The only real mistake the Panthers made came in releasing sixth-round pick Tyler Gaffney, hoping the running back would clear waivers and be reverted to injured reserve. He didn't. New England claimed the former Stanford star, basically making the draft pick a waste.

As for the concerns, here are three to keep an eye on as the team moves its preseason preparation from Wofford College in Spartanburg, South Carolina, to Charlotte.
  • Secondary: Free safety Roman Harper (toe) sat out most of camp in Spartanburg, so there's not a good feel for how he will fit into this system after spending the past eight seasons at New Orleans. Coach Ron Rivera says he has absolutely no concerns, noting Harper is a veteran who will adjust quickly. But until he does there, it's an issue. Charles Godfrey still hasn't shown the consistency the Panthers want as he transitions from safety to nickel back. If he doesn't, the job would fall to rookie Bene' Benwikere, and that is a lot of pressure for a first-year player on some of the league's top receivers. The starting corners appear set with Antoine Cason and Melvin White, but don't forget about Josh Norman. At 6-foot, 195 he has all the physical skills the Panthers seek. He just needs to be as consistent in games as he is in practice. Corner Josh Thomas finds himself as one of the training camp disappointments.
  • Depth on the offensive line: The starters are set with Bell at left tackle, Amini Silatolu at left guard, Ryan Kalil at center, Trai Turner at right guard and Nate Chandler at right tackle barring any setbacks. Garry Williams is a more than adequate backup at tackle or guard, and Chris Scott is a former starter at guard. After that it gets dicey as you saw in the preseason opener against Buffalo where reserve quarterback Matt Blanchard was under so much pressure that all of the starters except Kalil were reinserted. Undrafted rookie David Foucault out of Canada is working with the second string at left tackle. Although huge and athletic at 6-8, 305, he lacks experience and struggled in the preseason opener. Fernando Velasco and Brian Folkerts have gotten a lot of work as a backup center and guard. Velasco has 30 career starts, but he is coming off an Achilles injury at Pittsburgh. Overall, the depth is thin.
  • Return game: Gettleman can't say for sure whether the kickoff and punt returners are on the current roster as the Panthers attempt to replace Ted Ginn Jr., now in Arizona. Kealoha Pilares is the front-runner for the kickoff returner, but he has shown little as a dependable sixth wide receiver to fully justify that spot. Gettleman mentioned undrafted rookie Philly Brown as one of several young players Carolina wants to get a good look at in the upcoming exhibition games. Brown has great speed and has had moments where he's looked good as a wide receiver. Carolina always can fall back on cornerback Antoine Cason, but he hasn't shown much there. It still wouldn't surprise to see this spot filled by a player on another team after the first waive or two of cuts.

David Newton | email

ESPN Carolina Panthers reporter

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