This year the buzz is around wide receiver Keyarris Garrett and linebacker Jeremy Cash.
Here is what needs to happen for them to make the roster, and who their competition is from last season's Carolina Panthers roster.
Jeremy Cash - Linebacker - Duke
Panthers Roster Competition: Ben Jacobs
The path to the NFL for Jeremy Cash is clear.
First, the training staff needs to put some weight on him, at least 8 pounds this offseason. That sounds like a lot, but with Cash's frame it is very doable in a pro regimen. Trust me, this kid is in for a healthy dose of protein and weights.
Next, he needs to get excited about special teams, because that is now his bread and butter. The Carolina Panthers will not be calling upon the services of Jeremy Cash on defense this year, just as they hardly ever called on Ben Jacobs last year. But Jacobs, a former rookie camp invitee, cemented himself as an excellent special teams player and earned respect and a paycheck. Jeremy Cash must prove he can shed blocks and get downfield for tackles on the returner. If his performance at Duke is any indication, his natural tackling ability will be a huge asset for him to rely on.
The Panthers' preseason was never more important for a rookie. He will have a few opportunities to make a real difference. If not, he may be practice squad bound.
It is Cash vs Jacobs. The Panthers will not be keeping both this season.
Keyarris Garrett - Wide Receiver - Tulsa
Panthers Roster Competition - Brenton Bersin, Kevin Norwood, Philly Brown, Stephen Hill
The Panthers will likely keep only five receivers this season. There are only three locks at the moment: Kelvin Benjamin, Ted Ginn, Devin Funchess. The rest are competing for 2 roster spots.
Keyarris Garrett is ranked by most sources as the second most valuable UDFA pickup behind Jeremy Cash. Garrett's path to the Panthers roster has solely to do with his performance at the wide receiver position.
That's it, that's all.
Out work, out hustle, and out perform Brown, Bersin, Norwood, and Hill and the job is yours. The good news for Garrett is his drive. He has been very vocal since the draft about his resolve. He plans to prove without a doubt he was the best receiver in the draft, as his production numbers in college would indicate.
As a result, a swell of support has developed from Panthers Nation. Garrett has his work cut out for him, it won't be easy.
Making it even more difficult for Garrett is the fact that he is practice squad eligible, when some of the others are not. This gives the Panthers another option to develop him into a future star. Garrett needs to show the Panthers that he immediately can make plays week 1 against Denver. If he fails to do so, practice squad is likely.
Carolina Panthers Rookie Camp kicks off on Friday, May 13th. I will report back with initial impressions and photos.