Many players who played in Thursday’s final preseason game knew there was a good possibility they were playing their last game in a Carolina Panthers uniform. The inevitable cuts to the roster followed the day after the win over the Pittsburgh Steelers.
The first major announcement came on Aug. 30 when the Panthers placed kicker Graham Gano on the injured reserve list. Gano missed the last four games of 2018 due to an injury and wasn’t able to make the necessary comeback in camp. Panthers general manager Marty Hurney explained during a press conference Gano would work on getting healthy and doing what’s best for his injured leg.
This move leaves undrafted rookie Joey Slye in the starting kicker position. Slye has proven himself to be up to the task, kicking seven field goals in eight tries in the Panthers four preseason games, including an impressive 59-yard field goal against Pittsburgh.
The first round of cuts to the roster came on Aug. 30, with notable veterans Cameron Artis-Payne, Lorenzo Doss, Aldrick Robinson, Andre DePaola, and quarterback Taylor Heinicke being among the first players released.
Friday also brought waivers to linebackers Brandon Bell and Antwone Williams, guards Tyler Catalina and Taylor Hearn, centers Parker Collins and John Yarbrough, cornerbacks Corn Elder and Ryan Puller, defensive Tackle Woodrow Hamilton, tight Ends Cole Hunt and Jason Vander Laan, and wide receivers Damion Jeanpiere, Andre Levrone, Jayden Mickens, and Rashaad Ross. Guard Kofi Amichia and safety Damian Parms were placed on the waived-injured list, and guard Kitt O’Brien were placed on the injured reserve list with Gano.
Saturday, the deadline for the final 53-man roster, the Panthers had to release their final 13 players, and notable cuts the second day were seventh-round draft pick Terry Goodwin and veterans Jared Norris and Bryan Cox Jr. Also waived Saturday were safeties Cole Luke, Corrion Ballard, and Quin Blanding, guard Rishard Cook, cornerback Josh Thornton, tight end Temmarick Hemingway, defensive tackle Bijohn Jackson, linebacker Sione Teuhema, and wide receiver DeAndrew White. Marcus Baugh was placed on the waived injured list.
On Sunday, after making three waiver claims, the Panther released wide receiver Torrey Smith and waived Elijah Holyfield and Kevon Seymour. They were released for Brandon Zylstra, Natrell Jamerson, and Ray-Ray McCloud. Eight players, previously waived, were added to the 2019 practice squad on Sunday: Quin Blanding, Rashaad Cook, Bryan Cox Jr., Temmarick Hemingway, Bijohn Jackson, Cole Luke, Sione Teuhema, and DeAndrew White found themselves back with the Panthers after initially being waived.
Elijah Holyfield, after clearing waivers of his own, was also placed on the practice squad Monday, leaving one open spot. Holyfield had an impressive preseason with 19 rushes for 79 yards and one touchdown rushing, as well as catching six balls for 28 yards with another touchdown through the air.
There are three quarterbacks on the roster this year, which was always the plan according to Hurney and coach Ron Rivera. Cam Newton is expected to be fully recovered and ready for play before the first game. Kyle Allen is Newton’s backup quarterback, and rookie third-round pick Will Grier is in the third-string quarterback position.
The four running backs to make the roster are Christian McCaffery, Jordan Scarlett, Reggie Bonnafon, and Alex Armah. There are six wide receivers on the roster, including Curtis Samuel, DJ Moore, and newcomers Ray-Ray McCloud and Brandon Zylstra. There are three tight ends on the roster, and the offensive line of nine players includes Matt Paradis, Trai Turner, Greg Little, and Dennis Daley. Kawaan Short, Gerald McCoy, Dontari Poe, Kyle Love, Vernon Butler, and Efe Obeda make up the Panthers defensive line. The edge will consist of Mario Addison, Bruce Irvin, Marquis Haynes, and Christian Miller.
The inside linebackers are Luke Kuechly, Shaq Thompson, Jermaine Carter, Andre Smith, and Jordan Kunaszyck. Eric Reid, Tre Boston, James Bradberry, Ross Cockrell, and Natrell Jamerson make up over half of the defensive backs of the team. The specialists of the team are Joey Slye, Michael Palardy, and J.J. Jansen. This will be the first time since 2012 Gano hasn’t been the kicker for the Panthers on Carolina’s opening day. The Panthers will kick off their regular season play at home in Charlotte at the Bank of America Stadium against the Los Angeles Rams.