Preseason Game 4: Bubble Watch

Stevie Mercury
SB Nation

Well Panther Nation, this is it! One more preseason game for the bubble players to prove themselves before we find out who the final 2014 Carolina Panthers will be! And you know what that means... Football season is finally back! Without further ado, lets see which Panthers have the most to prove in this week's game against the Pittsburg Steelers.

Week 3 Recap

Joe Webb - 4th Season - QB - Stock Rising

With Cam Newton nursing a broken rib, Derek Anderson's wife expecting to give birth any day now, and Matt Blanchard's placement on IR, Joe will get an entire game this week with which to prove his worth.  Since Cam's back will probably be ailing for a good while and with his ankle still being a bit of a question mark, I think with a good showing this week Webb will almost certainly secure his spot on the 53-man roster (at least until Frank Alexander's suspension is over).

Fozzy Whittaker - 3rd Season - RB - Stock Even

It was a pretty quiet week for Fozzy, but then again the New England game was quiet for virtually everyone on the Panthers' offense.  Darrin Reaves was not cut this week either, but I feel like that may signal the front office's intention to try to stash him on the practice squad after final cuts.  Fozzy looks like he is more ready to contribute right now, and ultimately I think that lands him on the final 53.

Richie Brockel - 4th Season - FB/TE - Stock Rising

Well, I predicted last week that Richie will make it through both rounds of cuts and my certainty level went through the roof after watching the Patriots game.  The offensive line was pretty awful in both aspects, rushing and passing, and Brockel is one of the most sure blockers on the team.  With Gettleman seemingly being loathe to part with tight ends with blocking pedigree (see: DC Jefferson to IR and Mike McNeill making it onto the 75-man roster) I see no way Richie gets cut at this point.

Tiquan Underwood - 6th Season - WR - Stock Falling

We all knew it was coming.  (Well most of us, anyway.)

Charles Godfrey - 7th Season - CB - Stock Rising

With the news that Godfrey is now going to be used for depth at safety as well as CB, I am now pretty sure he sticks. The safety group isn't strong to begin with and thus far the position has been eaten up with injury issues.  Now with Robert Lester ailing and with Roman Harper yet to make his first appearance, I think Godfrey will hang around just due to his versatility and willingness to do anything to see the field.

Every receiver not named Kelvin BenjaminJerricho Cotchery, or Jason Avant

Well, this position group has cleared up quite a bit now.  With the release of Kealoha Pilares, Underwood, Toney Clemons, and Marvin McNutt in addition to the placement of De'Andre Presley on the PUP list, the team has trimmed down to 7 remaining WRs on the roster.  I feel pretty certain Philly Brown and Tavarres King will round out the bottom of the roster while Gettleman tries to stash Marcus Lucas on the practice squad.  This may seem crazy to everyone but me, but I am absolutely giddy over the potential I see in this group for the next several years.

New Arrivals

Wes Horton - 2nd season - DE

It will be interesting to see if the Panthers carry Horton to the 53-man roster.  He has played pretty well throughout training camp and preseason, and with Frank Alexander's suspension looming the Panthers are down a man at the position temporarily.  However, Mario Addison is the primary backup and Kony Ealy is supposed to be the heir apparent, so it could just come down to a numbers game.  I can see no way the Panthers carry 6 DEs on the roster once Frank returns, and Horton still has a year of practice squad eligibility left which would become null and void if he suits up in Alexander's place for 4 games.  So, do the Panthers want to stash the promising youngster for another year with an eye toward 2015?  Or do they feel it is more important to keep the depth right now, knowing it will mean they will lose Horton later this year?  I guess we'll find out soon!

Josh Thomas - 4th season - CB

I think Thomas will finally be sent packing this year, which won't come a moment too soon for many Panthers fans.  However, the coaching staff and front office have inexplicably given him chance after chance after chance, so there is obviously something about the young man that we are not privy to.  With Antoine Cason, Melvin White, and Josh Norman being allowed to battle it out for the top 2 spots and Bene Benwikere and Charles Godfrey being penciled in at nickel, I think Thomas is finally the odd man out as I can't seem to find a plausible way to keep 6 CBs on the final roster.

D.J. Smith - 4th season - LB

Though it seems crazy to me as it is so unconventional to do so, I think the Panthers will only carry 5 LBs onto the 53-man roster this season.  With the Panthers playing a 4-3 in-name-only - utilizing nickel packages over 60% of the time - I think numbers will force them to go light at the position this season, and Jason Williams will get the nod over Smith due to special teams ability.  In truth, D.J. hasn't shown much this preseason, but it is possible that the Panthers could drop someone from the offensive line to make room for him if they feel the need for depth at LB is too important to take a chance with.

Ben Jacobs - 4th season - LB

Same as above.  It just comes down to a numbers game for Jacobs.

Robert Lester - 2nd season - SS

One of the feel-good stories of the Panthers 2013 playoff run, the UDFA was a wonderful surprise as a rookie, playing far better than his draft status would have given anyone reason to hope for.  However, Lester doesn't seem to have made much of a leap this season, as he is still making the same mistakes as last year.  He takes terrible angles and too often bites on double moves and play-fakes.  I don't know if the team plans on releasing him outright, but it will be interesting if his ankle injury suffered last week "takes a turn for the worse", and we see him added to the IR list before final cuts.

Practice-Squad hopefuls

Darrin Reaves - RB

Michael Zordich - FB

Marcus Lucas - WR

David Foucault - OT

Andrew Norwell - OG

Casey Walker - DT

Adarius Glanton - LB

Denicos Allen - LB

Carrington Byndom - CB

De'Andre Presley - WR

Stick a fork in them

Mike Mcneill - TE

Kevin Hughes - OT

Derek Dennis - OG

Drake Nevis - DT

Micanor Regis - DT

James Dockery - CB

Tom Nelson - S

Anderson Russell - S

These are my best guesses for the final edition of Bubble Watch, though check back next week for the Bubble Wrap - h/t to MrBernz for the idea - to see how my predictions have panned out!  What say you, Panther Nation?  Sound off in the comments below, and as always...


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