Each year, 90 players show up to the Carolina Panthers training camp in hopes of making the regular-season roster. Some are fighting for a final roster spot, while others are rookies looking to make a splash, and still, others are working to make their mark in 2019. Entering camp, the Panthers have several burning questions and intriguing players. Below are six Panthers to keep an eye on during camp.
Six Carolina Panthers Players to Keep an Eye on During 2019 Training Camp
After undergoing off-season surgery in January, Cam Newton will in fact be on the field at the start of training camp. However, his throws will be limited in number according to head coach Ron Rivera. Newton has continued to recover and rebuild strength in his throwing shoulder this off-season, while also revamping his throwing motion. The new motion should take stress off of the shoulder, as well as also fine-tuning his throwing mechanics. The ninth-year quarterback was off to an MVP-like start to 2018, and if he returns fully healthy in 2019, it wouldn’t be surprising to see him return to that form. How many passes Newton throws, as well as how far he throws, will be a key topic for Panthers fans to follow prior to the start of the regular season.
Entering his second year in the NFL, Rashaan Gaulden will be expected to carry a much greater load than he did a year ago. With Mike Adams gone, and the team deciding to not draft or sign a safety, the second starting safety job appears to be in the hands of Gaulden. Reports from minicamp indicated that he has shown up with an improved attitude and understanding, as well as on-field performance so far in 2019. He’s currently the front-runner to start opposite Eric Reid, although he may also get some work at nickel back during camp. Regardless of what position he plays, Gaulden is one of the young players who has an opportunity to step up and fill a serious void on the Carolina defense.
After finally agreeing to a rookie deal with the Panthers, Brian Burns can focus solely on football. Burns was selected in the first round of this year’s draft, and the organization hopes that he can be the next great pass-rusher in Carolina. He collected 23.0 sacks in his three seasons at Florida State and was one of the most sought-after pass-rushers in the draft. Burns brings athleticism and versatility to his position and has been said by many to be the next Von Miller. There’s no denying Burns’ raw ability, and if the Panthers coaching staff can develop that talent, Burns can become a nightmare for opposing offenses for years to come.
Throughout college and off-season workouts, Elijah Holyfield’s name has been synonymous with his dad’s, former heavyweight champion, Evander Holyfield. Now with the Panthers, Elijah has an opportunity to make his own name at the football’s highest level. Although he went undrafted out of Georgia, he has a fighting chance to make Carolina’s 53-man roster. While some consider him to be a long-shot to make the team, the third running back spot will likely come down to him and Cameron Artis-Payne. If he were to make the roster, his physical, smash-mouth style could be an ideal complement to Christian McCaffrey. No matter how he performs, his name is sure to be a topic of interest this preseason.
Ever since Jordan Gross’ retirement following the 2013 season, Carolina has struggled to find an heir apparent at left tackle. Greg Little may finally be that guy. The Panthers took Little in the second round in April, with the hope that he can be the left tackle of the future. He was one of the top offensive tackles in the draft and was twice named an All-American while at Ole Miss. According to general manager Marty Hurney, Little will be given the first opportunity to protect Newton’s blindside in 2019. Protecting Newton is one of the most important things the Panthers can do, and they’re leaving it up to a rookie to do that. Little’s development during camp and the preseason will be key, not only for Newton’s health but also for Carolina’s overall success in 2019.
Following a stint in the short-lived AAF, Rashad Ross signed a one-year deal to join the Panthers in April. During his time in the AAF, Ross was dominant, finishing second in the league in receiving yards, and leading the league in touchdown catches. At 6’0″ and 180 pounds, Ross has decent size to go along with blazing speed. While he’s far from a lock to make the Week One roster, Ross has the ability to return kicks and punts, as well as provide a vertical threat–both of which are things the Panthers need to address. Ross also proved in the AAF that he can come down with circus catches. He will likely be battling rookie seventh-round pick, Terry Godwin, for the final receiver spot. Ross could also be kept if Carolina decides to release veteran receiver, Torrey Smith.