The Carolina Panthers will put on helmets for the first time since their January 10th loss to the Seahawks as the team participates in their first OTA session of the offseason. Here are three things you should keep your eye on during this week’s training activities.
- What will the rookies look like? More specifically, what will Devin Funchess look like. In the last two years Dave Gettleman has assimilated the “Twin Towers” of NFL receivers with the drafting of Kelvin Benjamin and Funchess. And with Benjamin sidelined with a hamstring injury, all eyes will be on the rookie out of Michigan. Will he be a formidable option for Newton behind Greg Olsen and Kelvin Benjamin? Did Gettleman get it right? Will Newton finally have the weapons around him to bolster his success? Only time will tell, but the success of Funchess could go a long way in aiding that.
- Who will step up and be Greg Hardy’s permanent replacement. The Kraken is officially gone, and while he was a very important part of Carolina’s top 3 defense two years ago, it’s time to move on. The question now is, who will step up to take his place? Will it be Frank Alexander – who showed flashes of potential prior to his suspension for violating the league’s substance abuse code? How about Kony Ealy, the Panther’s second round pick from a year ago, who played in 15 games last season and registered 4 sacks? Or will it be veteran Mario Addison who will be looking to build on his best season as pro last year?
- With the departure of DeAngelo Williams, Jonathan Stewart will finally be the team’s lone feature back. How will he respond? Will he stay healthy? The bottom line is, when the Panthers run the ball well they win. How Stew looks during OTA’s and his ability to stay off the sideline with injuries will tell us a lot about what his role will be heading into training camp and the season. Now that he’s “the man”, will he rush for 1000 yards for the first time since 2009? If the Panthers have hopes on building on last year’s post-season success they’ll need him to.
Cam Newton…Of course all eyes will be on the franchise player who says he’s the most healthy he’s been his entire career. Last year, due to injury, Newton didn’t participate in OTA’s. How will his addition this year help the team? Will it take long for him to build chemistry with new offensive additions? What does a 100% healthy Cam Newton look like?