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NFL Carolina Panthers

Carolina Panthers: 5 Surprise Starters in 2014

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Carolina Panthers: 5 Surprise Starters in 2014

Carolina Panthers
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Every year, NFL teams have players who come out of nowhere and become contributors. The Carolina Panthers have several candidates for surprise performers. The Panthers' NFC South title defense could come down to how much impact these players are able to have this year. Here are the five potential surprise starters for Carolina this year.

5. A.J. Klein

A.J. Klein Carolina Panthers
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5. A.J. Klein

A.J. Klein Carolina Panthers
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A.J. Klein appeared in all 16 games for the Panthers last season. He was generally backing up Chase Blackburn at the weakside linebacker position. I think he has a good chance to take over the starting spot this year. He is nine years younger than Blackburn and will be able to give the Panthers some more athleticism on defense.

4. Tre Boston

Tre Boston North Carolina
Daniel Shirey-USA TODAY Sports

4. Tre Boston

Tre Boston North Carolina
Daniel Shirey-USA TODAY Sports

The Panthers selected Tre Boston in the fourth round of the NFL Draft. The free safety from the University of North Carolina will have the opportunity to crack the starting lineup in his first year. The Panthers lost both of their starting safeties from a year ago. They replaced them with Roman Harper and Thomas DeCoud. Both players had bad seasons a year ago which means they shouldn't have much leeway.

3. Kenjon Barner

Kenjon Barner Carolina Panthers
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3. Kenjon Barner

Kenjon Barner Carolina Panthers
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Carolina hoped that DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Williams would turn into one of the best running back duos in the league. That hasn't come to fruition yet and seems unlikely that it ever will. Kenjon Barner has game-changing speed that the other two running backs don't have. He will be the starting kick and punt return man, and I think he will be used much more in the running game this season.

2. Tiquan Underwood

Tiquan Underwood Tampa Bay Buccaneers
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2. Tiquan Underwood

Tiquan Underwood Tampa Bay Buccaneers
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The starting spots at wide receiver are up for grabs in Carolina. I think that Tiquan Underwood will have a breakout year. He had a career-high four touchdowns a year ago for Tampa Bay. The Panthers' lack of depth at the position will allow Underwood to get more opportunities. Most people expect the starters to be first-round pick Kelvin Benjamin and either Jason Avant or Jerricho Cotchery. I think Underwood will outplay the two veterans.

1. Kony Ealy

Kony Ealy Missouri
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1. Kony Ealy

Kony Ealy Missouri
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The Panthers selected Kony Ealy in the second round of the NFL Draft. The first reaction was that Ealy would be a backup in Year 1 and then replace either Charles Johnson or Greg Hardy. That was before Hardy was found guilty of two misdemeanors from a domestic abuse arrest in May. Hardy will likely face a suspension from the league which opens up a spot for Kony Ealy. If he performs well, then he may not have to give it up.