|Preseason closes with roster questions|
|Panthers must reach 53-player maximum Saturday|
|Published Monday, August 31, 2009 1:50 pm|
The Carolina Panthers’ audition season ends this week.
Thursday’s game against Pittsburgh likely will be a final rehearsal for players on the bubble to retain a job and those who haven’t shown much to grab coaches’ attention. That means little work for starters going into the Sept. 13 season opener against Philadelphia.
|Carolina Panthers receiver Kenneth Moore, a Butler High graduate, has been a pleasant surprise in preseason play with six catches for 76 yards.|
Carolina has been inconsistent in practice games, going 0-3 against the New York Giants, Miami and Baltimore – each playoff teams from last season. Other than the games not counting, the Panthers got a chance to gauge the talent on hand.
“I think the level of competition we have seen in the preseason is great,” coach John Fox said. “Working against the best provides an excellent gauge for our progress. We would like for the record to be better but we have seen some good things.”
The final tuneup will hold consequences, of course. Rosters must cut to 53 players by Saturday, and the Panthers have to figure what to do in key positions, such as:
• Defensive tackle. With Maake Kemoeatu (Achilles) out for the season, Carolina’s already-suspect run defense is in need of repair. There are several youngsters who’ve gotten a chance to step in, but don’t appear ready to be full-time run stoppers. The Panthers will be scouring the waiver wire, but if other teams’ leftovers aren’t sufficient, don’t be surprised if Carolina aims for a trade.
• Third receiver. Dwayne Jarrett has gotten his opportunities in preseason, but two catches for 13 yards isn’t going to solidify that spot behind Steve Smith and Muhsin Muhammad. Kenneth Moore, a Butler High graduate, has been a pleasant surprise with six catches for 76 yards. He can also return kicks, which is a plus.
• Running back. The hype about rookie Mike Goodson turned out to be the truth after all with 25 carries for 118 yards and a score. He’s a creative change of pace option to Jonathan Stewart, who hasn’t played at all to nurse a sore Achilles. DeAngelo Williams is the starter, but Carolina won’t have much drop-off when Goodson’s in the lineup.
• Backup quarterback. This is a really sticky spot. Josh McCown’s numbers are better than Matt Moore’s in the preseason (12-of-22, 127 yards to 8-of-16 for 84), but they don’t tell a whole lot. Whoever has the better outing against Pittsburgh may wind up No. 2 to Jake Delhomme while the loser gets deactivated – a lot.
• Nickel corner. Rookies Captain Munnerlyn and Sherrod Martin are fighting for the spot. Both are athletic but raw, so this may take a season or an injury to settle. Veteran Dante Wesley (Arkansas Pine-Bluff) is a special teams ace who could factor in as well.
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