5 Carolina Panthers Facing Make-or-Break Seasons in 2014

5 Carolina Panthers Facing Make-or-Break Seasons in 2014

Ron Rivera
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The Carolina Panthers have a difficult road ahead in their bid to defend their NFC South title. An offense that was depleted at receiver and along the offensive line in recent months will make for sustaining success a challenge to say the least. Here are five players who will be counted on for improvement in 2014.

5. Chris Scott, Guard

Chris Scott
Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports

5. Chris Scott, Guard

Chris Scott
Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports

The Panthers' offensive line is seemingly in shambles after the loss of Jordan Gross and Geoff Hangartner to retirement and the potential retirement of Travelle Wharton. Without improvement or quality additions, Cam Newton could be running for his life all season long. A guard like Chris Scott, who ranked as Pro Football Focus' 53rd-most efficient guard in 2013, is one of several linemen who must step up.

4. Charles Godfrey, Safety

Charles Godfrey
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4. Charles Godfrey, Safety

Charles Godfrey
Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

Charles Godfrey missed most the 2013 season with an Achilles' injury. With a high cap number in 2014, Godfrey will need to prove his worth at free safety in addition to covering the slot when Carolina goes to the nickel. He'll be responsible for helping pick up the slack from Captain Munnerlyn's departure in free agency.

3. Tiquan Underwood, Wide Receiver

Tiquan Underwood
Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

3. Tiquan Underwood, Wide Receiver

Tiquan Underwood
Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

The Panthers' receiver corps was gutted by the loss of Steve Smith, Brandon LaFell and Ted Ginn Jr. in free agency. To bolster the passing game, the Panthers signed former Buccaneers wideout Tiquan Underwood to a two-year deal. Carolina will likely add a receiver early in the draft, but Underwood will still have every opportunity to compete for a starting role. He'll need to do better than the 440 yards he managed in 2013.

2. Byron Bell, Offensive Tackle

Byron Bell
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2. Byron Bell, Offensive Tackle

Byron Bell
Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

Byron Bell struggled at right tackle in 2013, but is expected to move to left tackle, where he played in college, in 2014. The Panthers will likely select a tackle early during next week's draft, but Bell could still be relied upon if the rookie isn't ready to start from day one. If that's the case, drastic progression from Bell will be in order.

1. Antoine Cason, Cornerback

Antoine Cason
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1. Antoine Cason, Cornerback

Antoine Cason
Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Another secondary piece who will need to be an adequate replacement for Munnerlyn is Antoine Cason. The former first-round pick didn't play much behind Tyrann Mathieu and Patrick Peterson with the Cardinals in 2013, but could enter training camp atop the depth chart in Carolina. The Panthers only inked Cason for one season, so he'll need to play at a high level to earn a big money contract in 2015.


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