CB, DT remain areas of need for Carolina

Posted July 31, 2011 @ 9:29 p.m.
Posted By Dan Parr

The Panthers' array of moves was one of the true spectacles in the early stages of a jam-packed free-agent signing period, but the team's big spending has yet to fill every hole on the roster.

While the team's unsettled quarterback situation will continue to garner attention from league followers across the country, two positions on defense stood out to team observers as less scrutinized areas of concern. Sources expect that the Panthers aren't quite done tweaking the roster, but the major work is behind them, and cornerback and defensive tackle are spots that leave the team vulnerable if no significant personnel acquisitions come before the regular season gets underway.

The returning starter at corner, eighth-year veteran Chris Gamble, is trying to start fresh with new head coach Ron Rivera after falling out of favor with John Fox last season. Gamble missed time with injuries and it's no certainty that he'll return to being a quality, dependable player again. With Richard Marshall, who started opposite Gamble for the past two seasons, departing via free agency, there's an opening at right corner and it's not clear who will fill it. Sources say the team is not interested in trading for Eagles CB Asante Samuel, despite rumors suggesting Carolina as a possible destination for him. Captain Munnerlyn has taken reps with the first-team defense opposite Gamble in the early going at training camp, but Munnerlyn lacks size and fits best as the nickel corner.

On the interior of the D-line, free-agent acquisition Ron Edwards is expected to be the starter at nose tackle. A collection of nondescript players is in the running to see time playing next to Edwards at the other tackle spot. Corvey Irvin (four tackles in two career games) and Nick Hayden, who hasn't impressed in previous starting opportunities, are contending for time at the position. Third-round pick Terrell McClain could play a significant role right away, but he remained unsigned at presstime.

Some have suggested that the Panthers could surprise people this season, and they did help themselves in certain areas by being aggressive in free agency. Significant weaknesses remain, however, and cornerback and defensive tackle are two positions where the Panthers still need help.

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