It's been a little over two months since the draft, and a few weeks remain before camp starts. Without much in free agency guaranteed to impact, the draft stands to be the higher gain area for Carolina.
Ron Rivera likes to start rookies a good bit more than John Fox - 58 starts* were made by Panther cubs in 2011, and 3284 snaps were played by players without accrued years. But, to start out playing instead of getting 15 snaps due to injury, you have to earn the part nonetheless. Below I break down how the rookies will have to position themselves to play.
LB Luke Kuechly - Not worth discussion, Kuechly will not likely leave the field while Carolina has the ball from scrimmage; the only question remains where?
G Amini Silatolu - penciled in at LG, there's not much competition. Silatolu's college film recalls Tarantino in its brutality, but his background suggests classroom issues. What remains to be seen is whether reaction in the zone scheme will be up to task. He can be told his assignment. So, the job's his for the taking, but he could be supplanted if he makes mistakes.
LB Frank Alexander - Will not start initially, as Carolina has two starters of good quality. The question will be whether Greg Hardy can remain effective at 300 lbs, and whether he and Charles Johnson stay healthy. I would expect Alexander to take on about 300 snaps as a pass rusher (the defense used 684 snaps from backups, about 400 of which were rush snaps. 198 of those were Antwan Applewhite's).
WR Joe Adams - the top threat for the return jobs, Adams has receivers ahead of him. There may not be much room here, the first three receivers gained 2447 snaps/159 receptions, and the other four that played gained a total of 94 among them for one reception (4 yards, Ajirotutu). His first year playing time will be up to luck and defense.
CB Josh Norman - the 25 year old rookie's age might offset his lack of big-school experience, and the
job is wide open for nickel back, if not greater. The starters were intact most of the season in the secondary, but the top backup, Darius Butler, played 416 snaps, and both RJ Stanford and Jordan Pugh played 248. Both Norman and Brandon Hogan are likely - and hopefully - be better than either, to start chipping away at the 828 snaps of Captain Munnerlyn.
P Brad Nortman - hard to say, and punters don't take scrimmage snaps. But he's gotta beat veteran Nick Harris, too.
S DJ Campbell - with four veterans ahead of Campbell, it's hard to say what will happen. If either veteran - Haruki Nakamura or Reggie Smith - win a starting job over the incumbents, I have a hard time seeing them cut either Sherrod Martin or Charles Godfrey. But, if both incumbents win, one new vet will go. Campbell would be a special teamer if so, and get a little time here and there. Or, short answer, there's a chance he'll play major snaps only in future years.
*starts: 16 Newton, 12 Mcclain, 12 Bell, 11 Fua, 4 Kearse, 2 Brockel, 1 Nelson. For what it's worth, profootballfocus.com has Newton's snaps played at 1061; Bell's at 831; Brockel at 126... other than that, the offense has only a pittance of rookie action, with Kealoha Pilares at 21 snaps, Lee Ziemba getting 15 snaps, and then Darvin Adams and Bryant Browning getting a snap each. On defense, McClain dropped 481 snaps (197/283, run/pass and one in coverage), Fua at 408 (240/166, and two drops to coverage); Thomas Keiser 205 (77/122/6), Nelson 77, Brandon Hogan 57.