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Panthers mailbag: How does current front seven stack up to 2003 group?

5/21/2015

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Between the Monaco Grand Prix, Indianapolis 500 and Coca-Cola 600 today is as big as it gets if you’re into auto racing like I am.

But I promise, no racing questions here.

This is all about what’s on your mind concerning the Carolina Panthers on this Memorial Day weekend Sunday.

@DNewtonESPN: This isn't a knock on the current bunch, but I'd have to go with 2003. Here are the two biggest reasons. I'd take defensive end Julius Peppers and defensive tackle Kris Jenkins on the 2003 unit ahead of anybody at their position on this year's front seven. Current middle linebacker Luke Kuechly might have a slight edge on Dan Morgan, but they are almost clones. So are outside linebacker Thomas Davis and Will Witherspoon, down to both went to Georgia. The 2003 unit was good enough to get Carolina within a last-second kick by New England of having a chance to win the Super Bowl. This current group has yet to prove that, but the pieces are there, particularly up front.

@DNewtonESPN: Depends on what level of respect you're seeking. The Panthers already have gained a lot of respect leaguewide. But you can't use winning the NFC South title two straight years as a reason. The division was a disaster last season, as evidenced by Carolina winning it with a 7-8-1 record. The respect earned last season was in how the Panthers became good enough to win a playoff game -- albeit against an Arizona team that was a mess at quarterback -- despite the distraction of defensive Greg Hardy's domestic violence case and multiple injuries to quarterback Cam Newton. Now if you're talking respect as in the level New England and Green Bay have, yes, it will take a Super Bowl win or two to get there. You could say that about a lot of teams, though.

@DNewtonESPN: That's a good question. I haven't seen Michael Oher perform since Carolina signed him as a free agent. So far all he's done is go through conditioning drills and classroom work. His first on-the-field test comes on Tuesday, but even that won't be a real test because it won't be full contact. It'll be hard to truly gauge how well Oher is performing until training camp. I will say this, though. The toe that bothered him last year appears fully healthy and he appears in a good place mentally after being reunited with offensive line coach John Matsko, his position coach in Baltimore when he played well.

@DNewtonESPN: First, Mike Remmers will begin camp as the starting right tackle. Whether he can hold off fourth-round pick Daryl Williams and several other players remains the question. I don't see him going to the left side, regardless. Jonathan Martin or Nate Chandler might be the best option if a player currently on the right side moves to the left side behind Michael Oher. Martin has played some there before, and Chandler was in the mix on the left side last season before losing that battle to Byron Bell. Of course, losing the job to Bell might be more of an indictment against Chandler's abilities on that side.

@DNewtonESPN: Barring injury, I'd go with Josh Norman and Charles Tillman at cornerback, Roman Harper at strong safety, Tre Boston at free safety and Bene' Benwikere at nickel. I am curious to see how free agent safety Kurt Coleman works into the mix. I could see him stealing playing time from Harper.