The days following the final preseason games are always bittersweet. While some players are rewarded for their efforts, others are left wondering what they could have done. Veterans watch as they are replaced by younger versions of themselves, their familiar visage a haunting reminder of plays gone by. Young bloods lament the little things, the small mistakes and squandered plays that cost them a chance. And those who do make it, their reward has yet to be seen, not until that first snap in September when all their effort come to fruition.
Here are the biggest winners and losers from the Carolina Panthers‘ final day of cuts:
The Panthers were already strong at defensive end with Charles Johnson and Greg Hardy, but Horton, an undrafted rookie from USC, proved himself worthy of a roster spot this August. Horton has great speed, and his edge rush is not to be trifled with. While he lacks the counter moves to consistently apply pressure, he has the ability to be a situational pass rusher.
Running back was arguably the Panthers’ deepest position, especially after drafting Kenjon Barner. That all changed once Jonathan Stewart was placed on the PUP list, leaving a spot open for Smith, at least until Stewart returns. Smith beat out Tauren Poole for the last spot, for though their running ability is comparable, Smith’s contributions on the kickoff coverage unit are invaluable.
Edwards has largely been considered a bust after the Panthers drafted the Appalachian State product in the third round of the 2010 NFL Draft, but a strong preseason secured him a roster spot. I would have preferred David Gettis for this spot, but Gettis’ penchant for injuries made him too much of a risk. Hopefully Edwards can step up and validate his selection.
The former second round pick was supposed to bring an end to the Matt Moore era, but he only seemed to make things worse. Clausen failed to generate wins in his short tenure as a starter, but at least those losses translated into some kind of gain — No. 1 overall pick Cam Newton
The former Baylor Bear showed promise in his first season, with his combination of size and speed making him an ideal deep threat, but a knee injury robbed Gettis of his burst. Gettis was also hobbled by a hamstring injury, preventing him from challenging Ted Ginn Jr.‘s amazing final preseason game. Gettis’ size still gives him some upside, but the loss of his speed and quickness was apparent during the preseason. Hopefully he can regain his pre-surgery form and help a team in need.
The third round pick never seemed to develop in the player the Panthers’ needed him to be, a quality that has infected almost all of the Panthers’ 2011 draft picks. Only Newton stands from that class, a bright spot amongst many disappointments. Fua did little in his two years with the Panthers, generating only 22 tackles and zero sacks. It’s alright though, Star Lutulelei and Kawann Short are itching to take his place.
The 11 year veteran was expected to start this season opposite Captain Munnerlynn, but Florence failed to impress during the four preseason games. He was severely outplayed by the Josh Norman and Josh Thomas, with Norman outshining everyone this preseason. Florence’s career may not be over, but it may be the beginning of the end.