Cam Newton showed last year that a rookie starter can have a major impact on his team’s fortunes. The Panthers started two rookies in their 2012 preseason opener (LB Luke Kuechly and OG Amini Silatolu) and others saw significant time. That means it’s put up or pack up time for some promising young players still waiting to blossom (WRs Armanti Edwards and Kealoha Pilares). Injuries and position battles will keep the depth chart in flux for the rest of the month. Each week during preseason, RapidReports will take a position-by-position look at the players we think are likely to make the final cut to 53 and those who we think may soon be seeking alternative employment.
Stock rising: S Haruki Nakamura didn't start the preseason game against Houston, but he played significant time and recorded four tackles, fourth-highest total on the team. LB Jordan Senn had a team-high 13 tackles. Undrafted rookie RB Tauren Poole made his case for a roster spot with 26 rushing yards and a touchdown.
Stock falling: CBs Brandon Hogan and Josh Norman were expected to challenge Captain Munnerlyn for a starting job. Both have struggled with injuries. K Justin Medlock had the first negative play of camp when Houston returned a short kickoff for a TD, earning criticism from coach Ron Rivera.
QB -- In: (3) Cam Newton, Derek Anderson, Jimmy Clausen. Out: Nobody. Analysis: If the Panthers feel the need to keep an extra player at another position, they might consider going with two QBs. That would likely put Clausen on the chopping block, but the team’s strong preference is to keep all three.
RB -- In: (3) Jonathan Stewart, DeAngelo Williams, Mike Tolbert (FB). Out: Tauren Poole, Lyndon Rowells, Josh Vaughan. Analysis: Poole was the toughest cut. The rookie out of Tennessee led the team in rushing in the first preseason game. He won’t play much this year, so the team will try to put him on the practice squad. If he keeps producing in the preseason, however, he can make it a lot harder for the Panthers to hide him.
WR -- In: (6) Steve Smith, Brandon LaFell, Joe Adams, David Gettis, Armanti Edwards, Kealoha Pilares. Out: Michael Avila, Brenton Bersin, Lamont Bryant, Rico Wallace, Jared Green, Darvin Adams, Seyi Ajirotutu, Louis Murphy. Analysis: The team kept six WRs at final cuts last year. Anywhere from five to seven is possible this year, as it has the most players on the bubble. Gettis is still on PUP. Edwards and Pilares need to impress to get one more chance. All of them get the benefit of the doubt for now. Despite being acquired from Oakland right before camp, Murphy is buried on the depth chart and is the choice to get cut, but expect things to shift as the preseason goes on.
TE -- In: (3) Greg Olsen, Ben Hartsock, Richie Brockel. Out: Gary Barnidge, Joe Jon Finley, Nelson Rosario, Greg Smith. Analysis: FB Mike Tolbert’s versatility was supposed to help free up roster spots elsewhere, so there’s a good chance Brockel is the odd man out at TE.
OL -- In (9): Ryan Kalil, Geoff Hangartner, Amini Silatolu, Jordan Gross, Byron Bell, Bruce Campbell, Garry Williams, Bryant Browning, Roger Allen. Out: Jeff Byers, Justin Wells, Will Blackwell, Mike Pollak, Andre Ramsey, Zack Williams, Matt Reynolds. Analysis: Right now, the starters include Bell, who was an undrafted free agent last year, and Silatolu, who is a rookie. With two inexperienced starters, it might be a good idea to keep an extra lineman. If so, Pollak, who has disappointed since signing as a free agent in March, might be the one to stick.
DL -- In (9): Charles Johnson, Ron Edwards, Greg Hardy, Sione Fua, Frank Alexander, Antwan Applewhite, Frank Kearse, Terrell McClain, Thomas Keiser (Andre Neblett, suspended). Out: Eric Norwood, Nate Chandler, Ryan Van Bergen, Ogemdi Nwagbuo. Analysis: With Neblett missing the first four games, the Panthers might keep a tenth lineman. Chandler and Van Bergen both got long looks on kickoff returns in the preseason opener and could get a spot, but the team would likely prefer to practice squad both.
LB -- In (8): Jon Beason, Luke Kuechly, James Anderson, Jason Phillips, Jordan Senn, Jason Williams, Thomas Davis, Kenny Onatolu. Out. David Nixon, Kion Wilson. Analysis: Beason and Davis are coming back from season-ending injuries and have missed time in camp, so the projected roster is LB-heavy because of their uncertain status. Davis is the least likely to be ready by the end of camp and could be cut or put on IR.
DB -- In (9): Chris Gamble, Captain Munnerlyn, Darius Butler, R.J. Stanford, Josh Norman, Charles Godfrey, Sherrod Martin, Haruki Nakamura, Jordan Pugh (Brandon Hogan IR). Out: Nate Ness, Josh Thomas, Reggie Smith, D.J. Campbell, Jonathan Nelson. Analysis: Hogan still hasn’t made it back onto the field after a knee injury early in camp. Norman has also battled injury, but he dressed for the preseason opener. Smith and Josh Thomas are tough cuts. One or both could make the team, especially if Norman’s hamstring continues to bother him.
Special teams -- In (3): Justin Medlock, Brad Nortman, J.J. Jansen. Out: Olindo Mare, Nick Harris. Analysis: Nortman outpunted Harris in the Houston game. Medlock’s accuracy gives him the advantage, despite Mare’s edge in kickoffs.
For more up-to-the-minute news and analysis on the Panthers from blogger Shawn Krest, follow@CBSSportsNFLCAR.