This week on the Huddle Podcast, Sammi and Jeremy sit down in studio with Panthers linebacker Shaq Thompson. 
 
Topics include:
- Life before the NFL
- Current Panthers topics
- Fellow linebackers
- much much more. 
 
Big thanks to Shaq for taking time out to join us, he was a great guest. 
 
Hopefully after listening to this episode you know a little more about him. 
 
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Yesterday the Panthers traded a conditional draft pick to the Seahawks for receiver Kevin Norwood. Norwood is a second year player who was drafted in the 4th round and had a pedestrian college career at Alabama. 
Not quite the news most Panthers fans were hoping for. 
If the Panthers hope to compete for the playoffs again this year, they will continue to look for help as proven veteran receivers are released this week. 
The Carolina Panthers do not have a single wide receiver on the team that will demand more than single coverage. Without a premier player that must be covered by a safety and a corner for containment, opposing defenses will key in on the Panthers run game and neuter their attack from the start. If the Panthers cannot run the ball, they are looking at once again having one of the most lackluster offenses in the NFC. Cam Newton will be forced to be 80% of the Panthers offense with his improvisations, increasing his chance of injury. Not good. 
Currently on the Panthers roster, possibly making the final cuts... 
Ted Ginn - Probably the closest thing to a player that requires double coverage on the team. Has proven he can get behind corners which could cause concern for defenses on occasion. 
Corey Brown - Also has proven he can break free from a corner, but until he starts catching the ball he is a lot like most NBA centers outside the three point line. Sure, you could cover him... but what would be the point. 
Jerricho Cotchery, Brenton Bersin, Jarrett Boykin, Kevin Norwood - All possession guys that won't demand much extra attention from defensive coordinators. Reliable targets that should not be more than the third read on any given play. If any of these guys are asked to be the leading receiver on a team, something is very, very wrong. 
Devin Funchess - A rookie that can't seem to stay healthy. Has had 3 hamstring issues in as many months. Missed time in OTA's, training camp, and now preseason due to injury. Could he contribute in a real way this season? Sure. But for the Panthers to rely on that is lunacy. 
I would have more hope for the passing game if the Panthers had a high level offensive coordinator capable of changing and improving on the fly through creativity. Unfortunately, they do not. 
Yesterday, Ron Rivera made it clear that if the current group of men did not show improvement in this week's preseason game that changes would be made. Yesterday's trade was a good start, but it isn't enough, not by a long shot.  
Here is my final 2015 Carolina Panthers roster projection. 
 
Offense - 26
Quarterback - 3
Cam Newton
Derek Anderson
Joe Webb
Note: Remember, Webb can also play that large possession receiver spot if needed. This allows the Panthers to keep only 5 receivers. 
Running Back - 4
Jonathan Stewart
Fozzy Whitaker
Cameron Artis-Payne
Jordan Todman
Note: With Jonathan Stewart entering what is probably his last season in Carolina, Panthers keep an extra back for continuity into 2016. 
Fullback - 1
Mike Tolbert

Tight End - 4
Greg Olsen
Ed Dickson
Scott Simonson
Richie Brockel
Note: Simonson has come on strong as of late and is kept as injury insurance. If Olsen or Dickson get injured, the Panthers offense would suffer greatly without a backup pass catching tight end. Brockel is kept for special teams and short yardage. Brandon Williams to IR possible. He has missed all of camp and preseason. Panthers could still keep him instead of Simonson though. Tough call. 
Wide Receiver - 5
Devin Funchess
Corey Brown
Ted Ginn
Brenton Bersin
Jerricho Cotchery
Note: I like Boykin and this is a very tough call. But keeping both Bersin and Boykin is fairly pointless as they are the same player. Boykin has a little more athletic ability but Bersin is more reliable. In a Ron Rivera locker room, reliability wins the spot. Personally, I would be very tempted to go with Boykin, but I don't think Rivera will. 

Offensive Line - 9
Michael Oher
Andrew Norwell
Ryan Kalil
Trai Turner
Mike Remmers
Daryl Williams
Chris Scott
Amini Silatolu 
Nate Chandler
Note: Panthers could opt to waive Brian Folkerts and use Mike Remmers as the backup center. This frees up roster space and makes room for the day that Daryl Williams is starting (it will happen this season). 
 
Defense: 24
Defensive Line - 9
Charles Johnson
Star Lotulelei 
Kawaan Short
Kony Ealy
Colin Cole
Dwan Edwards
Mario Addison
Kyle Love
Wes Horton
Note: Really strong group here. 

Linebacker - 5
Thomas Davis
Luke Kuechly
Shaq Thompson
AJ Klein
Adarius Glanton
Note: I have taken Mayo off the roster here. I just cannot see why you would keep him when he would so obviously clear waivers and land on the practice squad.  Cutting Trusnik and keeping Glanton instead helps the Panthers 2016 compensatory draft pick odds. 
Safety - 4
Roman Harper
Tre Boston
Kurt Coleman
Colin Jones
Note: Pretty much a lock here. Jones can move up into that buffalo nickel spot the Panthers love so much. 

Corners - 6
Josh Norman
Bene Benwikere
Charles Tillman
Teddy Williams
Melvin White
TJ Heath
Note: Teddy Williams has done enough to make this team in preseason. Special teams cause is helped by his addition. 

Special Teams - 3
Kicker - Graham Gano
Punter - Brad Nortman
Long Snapper - JJ Jansen 

Practice Squad - 9
Carrington Byndom
Damiere Byrd
Brandon Wegher (crossing fingers)
David Foucault
Marcus Lucas
Dean Marlowe
Martin Wallace
David Mayo
Rakim Cox
Terry Redden. 
Many fans were disappointed on Friday night when the Panthers chose to put preseason MVP Brandon Wegher in for only 7 offensive plays. It seemed as if the Panthers had forgotten about this undrafted rookie and a visit to the waiver wire is all but a certainty. 
Not so fast, another undrafted kid last season, Corey Brown, had even less snaps in the third preseason game (6). Brown went on to not only make the team, but contribute at crucial times late in the season. 
Of course, it didn't hurt that Brown was the designated punt returner at the time. However, Wegher has proven to be no slouch when it comes to punt and kickoff return teams. 
There is still hope, Wegher fans. 
 
In what will be the best dress rehearsal for the regular season we are ever going to see, here is what I will be paying extra close attention to in tonight's Panthers - Patriots match up. 
 
Run Game Dominance 
With Jonathan Stewart in the lineup and a much improved offensive line, the Panthers need to impose their will on the Patriots first string defense.  Last week this group looked pedestrian at best. The Panthers have enough talent on offense this season to grind out at least a few yards on every attempt, even if it is ugly and right up the gut of the Patriots defense. Line up our biggest guys against their biggest guys and lets see who gets moved. 
Cam Newton Read and React
Cam Newton has never looked good in preseason, so I am not overly concerned here. But many of Cam's throws have been just a tad late or behind the receiver. Take last week's intercepted pass to Greg Olsen for example. The ball was out late and behind Olsen, even though Cam had more than adequate protection. The result was a pick 6. I would like to see an interception free game from Newton this evening with quicker more decisive reads. 
More Shaq!
Really excited about what we saw from Shaq Thompson last week. Thompson provides a physical skill set that will prove to be a huge headache for opposing offensive coordinators this year. Thompson has the speed and strength to cover nearly anyone on the field and the natural instincts to snuff out the run at the line of scrimmage. More Shaq, please. 
Catch the Ball, Corey
Corey Brown has a dismal showing last week with his multiple drops including one in the end zone. While I am excited that Jarrett Boykin is really coming on strong, the Panthers need Brown as an additional deep threat. If Corey can put together a solid game tonight, catch everything thrown his way, and possibly tack on a touchdown... last week will be all but forgotten. 
Get Aggressive, Stay Aggressive
The Panthers and Patriots do not like each other, and that is putting it mildly. Even though it is preseason, the Panthers do not want to be embarrassed by the Patriots on a national stage. I know some fans will play the "just no injuries" card, which is always a boring platitude. Of course no injuries. It is a given. But you know how you avoid injuries best? By staying aggressive and on the offensive. Players most frequently get injured when they are not in control of the action. Take Cam's rib injury from last year's Patriots game for example. Offensive line break down, Cam running for his life amidst a butt whooping. Result? Injury. Be in control. Stay aggressive. That is the best way to stay healthy. 
 
 
Last year around this time, the New England Patriots embarrassed the Carolina Panthers. 
On August 22, 2014, the Patriots took Carolina behind the woodshed in the third preseason game of the preseason and administered a 30-7 beating. But it was really never that close. The Patriots held the Panthers scoreless for 58 minutes and sent the Panthers home with an injured Cam Newton. 
This game ended up being an omen for the 2014 regular season. Many, myself included, brushed aside the 30-7 domination as preseason silliness. Turns out, Carolina was on the losing end of those types of blowouts early and often in the 2014 season. Meaningless? Not so much. 
The Panthers do not want to be embarrassed again this week. This week, it is personal. 
For the first two days of practice this week, scout teams have been used. Yes, they are game planning for Friday night. The Panthers are installing plays they feel will be successful against the Patriots. The players have spent time in the film room. Cam Newton and the starters will be playing into the third quarter. This is as close to the regular season it will ever get in August. 
This week we have our first real look at the 2015 Carolina Panthers. Whether the performance is outstanding or dismal, it will be difficult to brush aside the results as "only preseason." 
I learned that lesson last year. 
The Huddle Podcast is back!
 
This week we talk preseason with The Charlotte Observer's Jonathan Jones about the Panthers preseason and more. 
Topics include - 
- Panthers rookies
- Preseason performance
- Mike Tolbert
- More
 
We are joined by the guys from Brewpublik , a new service in Charlotte that delivers delicious beer to your home, work, or tailgate. Check it out. 
Subscribe via iTunes -> Click Here
 

 
 
As part of their Undrafted series, NFL Network is spotlighting Panthers RB Brandon Wegher. 
It seems Wegher is getting more than just local attention for his late game heroics. Parallels have been drawn between him and another undrafted running back, Arian Foster of the Texans. 
 
 
 
There is a path for Wegher to make the Panthers 53 man roster. I have it detailed here on a possible projected roster. 
 
 
There has been a lot of talk about the Panthers roster at certain positions and the likelihood of some of the bubble players making the team. 
But what if the Panthers decided to go all out and install another youth movement on the Panthers roster. Here is what it could look like.... 
 
Offense - 26

Quarterback - 3
Cam Newton
Derek Anderson
Joe Webb
Note: Panthers can keep all three QBs still as they have said they would.  
Running Back - 4
Jonathan Stewart
Cameron Artis-Payne
Jordan Todman
Brandon Wegher
Note: Possibly the strongest lineup ever seen from top to bottom in this group. A lot of people see Wegher as in a roster competition with the other backs. He is not. His actual competition comes from one of the linebackers.... Jason Trusnik. Wegher wins the position by filling the special teams designated roster spot that Rivera has alluded to multiple times. Wegher has looked fantastic in special teams this preseason. 
Fullback - 1
Lee Ward
Note: Not a popular move with most fans, but Ward could possibly move the pile on the 3rd or 4th and short. 
Tight End - 3
Greg Olsen
Ed Dickson
Marcus Lucas
Note: Could be Simonson here instead of Lucas. Simonson looked pretty good against the Dolphins. 
Wide Receiver - 6
Devin Funchess
Corey Brown
Ted Ginn
Brenton Bersin
Jarrett Boykin
Damiere Byrd

Note: The youth movement is strong here. Good mix of size and speed with fresh legs all season long. Cotchery is the odd man out. 

Offensive Line - 9
Michael Oher
Andrew Norwell
Ryan Kalil
Trai Turner
Mike Remmers
Daryl Williams
Chris Scott
Amini Silatolu 
Nate Chandler
Note: Nothing changed here. 
Defense: 24
Defensive Line - 9
Charles Johnson
Star Lotulelei 
Kawaan Short
Kony Ealy
Dwan Edwards
Mario Addison
Kyle Love
Terry Redden
Rakim Cox
Note: Cox replaces Alexander. The rookie Redden over Colin Cole. Cole is one of the oldest players on the roster currently. 

Linebacker - 5
Thomas Davis
Luke Kuechly
Shaq Thompson
AJ Klein
David Mayo
Note: Jason Trusnik removed here. AJ Klein allows the Panthers to keep only 5 linebackers with his ability to play every position as a backup. 
Safety - 4
Roman Harper
Tre Boston
Kurt Coleman
Colin Jones

Corners - 6
Josh Norman
Bene Benwikere
Charles Tillman
Teddy Williams
Melvin White
Carrington Byndom
Note: Byndom quietly impressive Saturday night. 

Special Teams - 3
Kicker - Graham Gano
Punter - Brad Nortman
Long Snapper - JJ Jansen 

Practice Squad - 7
David Foucault
Adarius Glanton
Dean Marlowe
Martin Wallace
TJ Heath
 
So what do you think, would this be a Panthers roster that a) you could get behind and support fully and b ) has a chance to win?