Mar 25, 2014; Orlando, FL, USA; Buffalo Bills head coach Doug Marrone speaks to reporters at the NFL Annual Meetings. Mandatory Credit: Rob Foldy-USA TODAY Sports

Q & A: 6 Questions For The Carolina Panthers

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The Buffalo Bills face off against the Carolina Panthers tonight at 7:30 PM.  We did this last year and found it to be successful and thought it would be good to bring it back.  Why change something that works.  We sought out the expertise of the FanSided Carolina Panthers editor and asked him a couple questions dealing with Panthers and what they had with training camp and where they stand to date for their first preseason game. 

Bryan Palmese is the Panthers editor over at Catcrave.com.  I asked him 6 questions on the Panthers training camp and where they are at and what type of improvements are still needed to get the ready for the regular season.  Here are the questions and Bryan’s answers.

1. How would you assess the team’s offseason? Did they do what they needed to do through the draft and free agency?

Despite most media outlets, I am confident in the offseason Carolina had.  They were not able to fill all of the holes on the roster through the draft and FA, but they made the best with what they had.  The Panthers were severely cap-strapped heading into the offseason, but GM Dave Gettleman did an outstanding job plucking free agents off of the bargain bin.  Antoine Cason, Thomas DeCoud, Jerricho Cotchery and Ed Dickson don’t jump out as sexy names to add to most teams, but they will fit in here perfectly.  Cason and DeCoud will fill the roles that Drayton Florence and Mike Mitchell did in ’13.  Veterans that have the skill set to thrive within a defense that is strong up front.  Cotchery and Dickson will add veteran experience and dimensions to the receiving corps.  In the draft, Kelvin Benjamin, Trai Turner and Bene Benwikere were home runs.  In the 2nd round, Gettleman again got value with his pick in selecting Kony Ealy, a DE/DT that had a first-round grade from several scouts.  Benwikere will slide into the nickel slot by the end of this season and cushion the loss of Captain Munnerlyn.

2. Which Rookie(s) are you most excited to see play in 2014 and why?

Trai Turner, the guard out of LSU intrigues me the most.  He should be an instant starter on our depleted offensive line, but will fortify the interior for the Panthers.  He, Ryan Kalil and Amini Silatolu will be a strong line to penetrate helping ease the burden on our offensive tackles.  Bene Benwikere, a 5th round cornerback from San Jose State excites me the most.  He’s already gotten the nickname “Big-Play Bene” in Training Camp, and is always around the ball.  His IQ is very high and rarely gets beaten on passes.  He is well-rounded and if he keeps up his play, I can see him eventually sliding outside to one of the starting two CB spots down the line.  If he can keep the momentum and not be a Training Camp story that gets lost once the season starts, Benwikere will be a name to know.

3. Are there any holes that need addressing before the start of the season?
Honestly, our kick return game and offensive tackle positions are two concerns for me.  The loss of Ted Ginn, Jr. is evident thus far, and the Panthers need to figure out who “that guy” is going to be on kickoff and punt returns.  There’s a rookie out of Ohio State, Philly Brown that has impressed and has 4.4 speed, but not sure if there’s room to carry him on the roster.  Second year RB, Kenjon Barner should step up and take this spot, but he hasn’t.  With a stout defense, our ability to control the field position game in ’13 was huge, so this area needs to be addressed.  On the flip side of the ball, OT hasn’t been fully solidified.  There are two players fully capable, but neither has locked down either side.  Both Nate Chandler and Byron Bell have the ability to play left or right tackle, so hopefully the coaching staff can sort out this game of musical chairs.  I also wouldn’t rule out a late addition off of the waiver wire as teams begin cutting players.
4. Where do you feel the Panthers will finish this year?

I see us coming in at 10-6 and snagging that last Wild Card berth.  The NFC has beefed up and it will be a tough fight, both within the NFC South, and the NFC as a division.  We’ve got a tough stretch of games in the second quarter of the schedule, so if we can come out of that in good shape, we should be good to go.  Additionally, if Carolina can stay healthy, I think 10-6 is very achievable with the roster in place.  The Panthers have never made the playoffs in back-to-back seasons, and players have already taken note of that this summer.  Several players have been vocal about accomplishing this feat and I think this roster is better than 2013 from top-to-bottom.

5. Are there any position battles that you are keeping an eye on that Bills fans should pay attention to?

The WR position will be the most heated battle all summer.  Kelvin Benjamin, Jerricho Cotchery and Jason Avant are locks, but the final three spots are up for grabs amongst five or six players.  Some are veterans and some are undrafted free agents, but all of them know that the opportunity is there.  I wouldn’t expect too many fireworks as Cam Newton is resting an injured ankle, and Derek Anderson will put in the most work at QB Friday night.

6. What is your predicted outcome for game?
I see this being a low-scoring affair and lots of players feeling each other out in a conservative approach.  Derek Anderson is more than capable of running the offense and there’s enough support elsewhere to keep the game competitive.  With the Bills traveling on a short week and the Panthers excited to shake the rust off, I predict the Panthers to be victorious in a close game.  Carolina 17 Buffalo 16.  The home field advantage and a deep defense wins it out for Carolina.
Bryan asked me the same questions.  So head on over to Catcrave.com to see my answers to the questions regarding the Buffalo Bills.
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