Carolina's counting on competition to create some players out of the
affordable options, instead of buying more known commodities. It
remains to be seen what will happen from a quality standpoint, but
here's how I see the following races.
These are all done without much evaluation - they're just an initial
handicap before the first game. But, things are finally happening in
real time on these races.
3:1, Captain Munnerlyn - I'd be willing to assume that Munnerlyn,
without much disagreement, makes sense to return as the incumbent
starter. He finished '12 strong.
5:1, Drayton Florence - the only experienced guy with size, Florence is
also the vet by far. They seem to want to use him as they did Chris
Gamble in the past. Florence doesn't have that same talent level, but
he's a good roleplayer.
7:1, DJ Moore - Destined to be a nickel, he's well acclamated to the
role. Beating Florence would be a nice surprise.
10:1, Josh Thomas - has size, enough ability. A darkhorse who's played
a lot in '11, 12, but if Moore is coming off the bench, Munnerlyn might
not slide inside; either way, less need for an outside corner.
12:1, Josh Norman - so far, everything's been about his renewed
confidence. So far, so good. But he'll have a harder time earning the
start with everyone above him having more experience. Norman should
make the team, but he won't be guaranteed much more, and he really needs
to have one of those 2-3 pick practices (or play an actual ball in a
game) before he's taken seriously.
3:1, Mike Mitchell - the non-descript player lacks longterm experience,
but is the most physically gifted safety competing for a job. He hasn't
shown up as a weakness yet,
6:1, DJ Campbell - smart, but not big or physical like the guys above
and below him. I believe, ideally, Campbell would be the backup FS, but
he did finish the year playing a competent SS.
10:1, Robert Lester - Lester might make the team, but will have to show
up in games. He gets praise but he'll have to stand out.
15:1, Haruki Nakamura - there's just a stigma on the guy. Ask most,
and they'd prefer he never be on the field except for special teams, or
just outright cut. I think he's a good special teamer, and should stay,
but might be fighting Lester for the 9th or 10th DB spot.
5:1, Colin Cole - appears to be two obstacles on this one. Can he stay
healthy, and does a vet minimum player as your 4th best DT fit in the
top 53? Otherwise he's the best player on this list.
10:1, Frank Kearse - a coach's favorite, Kearse was a waiver pickup
that's exceeded expectations in playing time. But he's topped out, not
big enough to really impact NT and not athletic enough to be an under
14:1, Sione Fua - I had high hopes for this pick, but it just hasn't
worked out. I was wrong about it, and defended a guy who went too high
because the team reached. He was allright on technique, but just never
developed - it happens. Seems destined to be cut, but at least he made
it further than Terrell McClain.
4:1, Garry Williams - like it or not, it appears Williams has won the
job unless he's bad enough to require replacement in camp.
6:1, unknown replacement veteran - Carolina was interested in Travelle
Wharton returning, but apparently only at the vet minimum. One would
assume that the team floated similar interest in Brandon Moore, but
haven't heard anything yet.
10:1, Edmund Kugbila - Carolina hasn't been shy lately regarding
starting rookies, adding a starting rookie each year to the OL. Kugbila
might or might not be in good shape (the media infers that he isn't, but
hasn't stated as such), but it's going to be tough to fight for the job
if he's hurt.
2:1, Brandon Williams - Williams was good enough to let go Nelson
Rosario, who clearly wasn't good enough. Williams is coming into his
own as a blocker but is definitely athletic and can catch. Reports about
him being able to unseat roleplayer Ben Hartsock are misguided, but
shows what a hold Williams has on the job.
10:1, Zach Pianalto - crafty young guy who has potential, and played in
this offense at UNC. Like Williams, he has to show that he can block,
as he was more of an off-the-line TE at UNC at times. Pianalto's
greatest strength is familiarity with the local crowds, which means
little to evaluators.
12:1, Richie Brockel - he's earned a roster spot each time since '11,
and is a good utility player who backs up fullback and plays special
I don't know that a lot of situations have improved so far because of
competition - I'm tenatively happier about the secondary and 3rd TE
situation, but who knows?