The conclusion of the rookie minicamp signals a period of frustration and excitement for many football fans. Excitement over the fact football is back, and frustration because it still seems so far away. There are several things I will keep an eye on for the next few months, and several things I want to happen. I’ll list a few things that I hope/expect will come to fruition, and will be either frustrated or excited at the eventual outcome.
#1: No Injuries
This had to be number one on this list, injuries are an unfortunate outcome of professional sports. The injury train is already off to a fast start with the season ending ACL tears of first round pick Dante Fowler and third round pick Jeff Heuerman. This is the last thing I want happening to any of the young guys trying to fulfill their dreams this summer, pray for the safety of not only Panther’s players, but for the safety of everyone league wide.
#2: The Linebacker Battles
This should be one of the most exciting battles in any camp this season. We know Luke Kuechly, Thomas Davis, and most likely Shaq Thompson will earn their starting spots; but who will rise up out of the muddled group after them? AJ Klein, Jason Trusnik, Ben Jacobs, David Mayo, Adarius Glanton, and Kevin Reddick among others will be vying to not only make the roster, but receive meaningful snaps as well. The depth and talent in this group will surely make this an exciting battle to watch throughout the preseason.
#3: A Young Wide Receiver to Assert Himself
This is a yet another position battle that will turn into a very heated competition this preseason. I’m looking for one or two guys to come out and claim there spot in the rotation. If your name isn’t Kelvin Benjamin or Devin Funchess, your roster spot isn’t guaranteed. Between Ted Ginn, Stephen Hill, Damiere Byrd, Jarrett Boykin, Philly Brown, Jerricho Cotchery, Brenton Bersin, Marcus Lucas, and Avius Capers; I expect two or three of these players to rise above the pack and earn a roster spot, and hopefully at least two of them will really shine. I’m paying especially close attention to Stephen Hill, a guy who has all the athletic tools in the world, hopefully he can get his head and hands on the same page.
#4: The Running Back Battles
The competition between running backs will really be a two part series this offseason: Brandon Wegher Vs. Cameron Artis-Payne and Fozzy Whittaker Vs. Jordan Todman for the spark plug kick return job. I think Artis-Payne will definitely earn the backup job to Stewart, but the addition of Wegher will certainly make him play harder; and who knows, Wegher could show enough to earn some snaps in the regular season. Todman Vs. Whittaker will be really fun to watch, both are similar in what they would bring to the team. I think all Fozzy has to do is play even ball with Todman and the job will go to him by default, but if Todman really steps his game up, things could get very interesting.
#5: A Young Cornerback to Assert Himself
If you're Lou Young, Teddy Williams, Carrington Byndom, Melvin White, Garry Peters, or De’Andre Presley you know most likely there will be a starting spot available for the taking next year when Charles Tillman leaves. The time to assert themselves is now, and whoever wants it the most, may be rewarded a starting role. What makes this camp battle different from the others is that a full time starting role will be open in the foreseeable future, not just a rotational spot. In my recent UDFA article, I pretty much gave next years starting role to undrafted gem Garry Peters. Since then, Lou Young dominated the rookie camp and is gaining headway for a major role in the defense. This battle will span over multiple offseasons, and hopefully one player will step up and outright claim the starting role.
#6: Preseason Domination
When the ball is snapped week one of the preseason action against Buffalo, I want to see our team dominate the competition. I expect to see growth from everyone, and hopefully an Injury free game for Cam when he laces up against the Patriots. I don't want the players, even the roster long shots, to give anything expect their best effort. I would like to go the preseason with only half competent quarterbacks taking snaps (no more Matt Blanchard’s). I want to see guys stepping up and showing why they deserve to be on the final roster, and hopefully this equates to wins on the football field.
By Grant Hughes
Follow Grant on Twitter @KenjonVander