(Written by Austin Stallings)
If you’ve seen the HBO hit-series, Hard Knocks, you’re well aware that the NFL’s final roster cuts are looming — and as unfortunate as it may be, it’s sometimes the fan-favorites that get sent packing. That is something Panthers fans know too, after seeing wide receiver Jarett Boykin, and cornerback Melvin White waived earlier this week when the roster was trimmed to 75. White was instrumental to the team’s 2013 success, and Boykin was thought to add much-needed depth to the receiving corps, after being claimed from Green Bay’s roster in May. Now heading into the final week of the preseason, the team must trim an additional 23 players by 4:00pm on Saturday — and tonight’s matchup with the Steelers is sure to figure in heavily to the decision.
Look for the starters and roster-safe players to see a series or two at most, before making way for position battles to take place at several positions. As Ron Rivera acknowledged himself, “the final cut we make, no pun intended, is not very clear-cut,” “there are a lot of young guys you let go who can play in this league.”
Tonight will also mark the return of second-round pick Devin Funchess, who has been sidelined with a troublesome hamstring for most of the preseason. He’ll look to build on a successful Week 1 showing, and give the offense a beacon of hope after what has been a trying preseason. While Funchess should certainly be an upgrade to the current landscape of pass-catchers in Carolina, he won’t be without his rookie growing pains this season, and shouldn’t be expected to fill the impossible void left by an injured Kelvin Benjamin.
Nevertheless, he’ll draw each team’s top defensive back, which should leave more room for the rest of the offense to operate.
Overall, don’t read too much into tonight’s game – as maybe we have for the past three weeks. It will serve as a valuable film-reel for the team’s front office, but even the most accredited analysts can’t predict how final roster cuts will shake out. Between the GM’s vision, and the head coach’s direction – people outside of the building won’t know what the finalized 53 man roster will look like until it’s published. It will be a fun one to watch though, with every player on the field fighting for a job, be it with their current team or otherwise.
Follow Austin on Twitter @Austallings for Breaking News, Injury Updates, and General Football-oriented Rants.