Carolina Panthers: OTA Position Battles to Watch

The battles for a better spot on the depth chart start this week for the Carolina Panthers.
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Under the collective bargaining agreement teams are allowed to hold a total of 10 OTA practices. These 10 practices are not mandatory however they are followed by a three-day minicamp which is mandatory. Expect most of the Panthers players to show up for OTAs to get some reps in with their new teammates. 

Here is the Panthers offseason schedule:

OTAs: May 24-25, May 27, June 1-3, June 7-10

Mandatory minicamp: June 15-17

The current depth chart is a work in progress and will not be made official until after a few preseason games are played. Still, it's never too early to get a jump start on the competition. There are some very intriguing position battles to keep an eye on this offseason.

Here are a few position battles to watch:

1. Quarterbacks

Sam Darnold is all but locked into the starting role but after that things get interesting. The team has Will Grier, P.J. Walker and Tommy Stevens competing for roster spots. It is extremely unlikely that four quarterbacks make the final 53-man roster.

In this position group we really have two battles going on. One is who will emerge as the clear-cut backup behind Darnold? Last season Walker was the first guy off the bench when Bridgewater missed a game. It will take a strong offseason from Grier or Stevens to leapfrog him. The second battle with this group is simply making the roster. As mentioned above, it is likely that one of the three backup QBs will be cut. Every rep is an audition tape.

2. Wide Receivers

Possibly the best group of players that the Panthers' possess is the wide receiver position. DJ Moore and Robby Anderson will play out wide on almost every snap but as Joe Brady proved last season there is room for at least one more WR to play a ton. Curtis Samuel is gone and Carolina brought in a bunch of guys to compete for his vacated spot. 

The two favorites to take over the No. 3 WR spot are free-agent addition David Moore and second-round pick Terrace Marshall Jr. Both are big-bodied targets that can help out in the red zone. 

Shi Smith is another wideout that should be interesting to watch as he is actually the player that resembles Samuel the most. He is a slighter, speedier guy that can be a problem after the catch. Expect him to carve out a role somewhere on this offense.

3. Tight Ends

Here's a position that is completely up for grabs. Unlike QBs and WRs, the TE spot does not have a starter locked in. Simply put, whoever plays the best this offseason should walk away with the starting job. 

Free-agent addition Dan Arnold and rookie Tommy Tremble are the favorites to get the most playing time at tight end. Ian Thomas is still on the roster but after last season it would take a tremendous effort for him to crack the starting lineup in 2021. 

4. Linebackers

This is another group that is essentially up for grabs. Denzel Perryman was brought in to cover the MLB spot something that the Panthers really struggled to get production from last season. Christian Miller, Clay Johnston and Paddy Fisher could all see significant playing time if they perform well at camp.

Shaq Thompson will more than likely reprise his role in stopping the run game. There will be a lot of pressure on this unit to step up so that the versatile Jeremy Chinn will be able to move back to his natural safety position. OTAs, training camp and preseason will go a long way in determining if the Panthers can trust their current LBs. 

5. Safeties

The Panthers parted ways with Tre Boston this offseason leaving a significant gap to fill. Juston Burris should keep his spot at free safety but the strong safety position is not set in stone.

Carolina should be able to deploy Chinn as a hybrid strong safety and linebacker depending on the opposing offenses formation and tendencies. However, this is all going to depend on the other safeties and linebackers on the roster to step up. Just like at LB, the safeties are going to have to have a strong camp in order to earn the confidence of Matt Rhule and Phil Snow.

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