Panthers Mailbag: Gano is no Forrest Gump

SPARTANBURG, S.C. -- Here's some of what we know about the Carolina Panthers after five days of practice:

  • Quarterback Cam Newton isn't fully recovered from offseason surgery on his left ankle, but he's quickly developing chemistry with his new wide receivers and the ankle shouldn't be an issue when the season begins.

  • Newton needs first-round draft pick Kelvin Benjamin, who has missed the last few practices with a bruised left knee suffered on Sunday. He's spectacular.

  • Byron Bell has a slight edge over Nate Chandler for the starting left tackle spot, but it's still too close to call.

  • Free-agent cornerback Antoine Cason is making the loss of Captain Munnerlyn an afterthought.

  • Defensive end Greg Hardy hasn't been a distraction after being found guilty of assaulting and threatening his ex-girlfriend.

The rest I'll handle in my mailbag as the team returns to practice today at 9:25 a.m. following an off Wednesday.

To the questions:

@DNewtonESPN: Glad you asked. Gano began living his dream of being the next Forrest Gump (in terms of table tennis) on the first day of camp. Sitting off to the left and a few yards behind his side of the table, I thought he was doing well by the number of balls that kept rolling under my feet. I learned it wasn't because his opponents were having so much trouble with his powerful forehand as much as he was missing the return. Seems the Carolina place-kicker is deadly with his foot but not with a paddle. And he is deadly with his foot. While shooting a SportsCenter segment on Tuesday, the producer stood next to the sun screen I was under, which was directly under the goal post. Gano hit the crossbar twice. I believe he could have hit us if he really wanted to. Gano actually replied to this question on Twitter, saying, "I've had my share of butt whoopins at camp. I'll stick to kicking field goal.'' My only other comment is, to quote Mrs. Gump, "You have to do the best with what God gave you.''

@DNewtonESPN: Unless two or three players step up behind Kelvin Benjamin, Jerricho Cotchery and Jason Avant, it wouldn't totally surprise me. Brenton Berson, Tavarres King, Kealoha Pilares, Tiquan Underwood and Marcus Lucas all have had their moments, but not consistent enough that general manager Dave Gettleman will stop scanning the waiver wires.

@DNewtonESPN: Starting safeties Roman Harper and Thomas DeCoud and cornerbacks Antoine Cason and Melvin White have looked solid. But DeCoud has missed a couple of practices with a leg injury and they're controlling the number of reps for Harper because of his age (31) and his knee that was injured last season. No worries there, but it makes it hard to get a great read on the group. Charles Godfrey was caught looking inside on the first few days of his transition from safety to corner, but had a good practice on Tuesday. I don't look for this group to be the Achilles heel, nothing personal Godfrey, of the team.

@DNewtonESPN: I really don't look for it to be any different than last season other than he won't scramble as much.

@DNewtonESPN: Yes. Right now I'd say he's in the top six, maybe No. 5. If he makes it, it's a great underdog story.

@DNewtonESPN: He is now. He just needs to get that bruised knee healthy. When on the field he looks great.

@DNewtonESPN: He gets forgotten because he's so steady, but third-round draft pick Trai Turner. The guard out of LSU is working with the first team on the right side and living up to all the hype.

@DNewtonESPN: Surprises? I'll go with undrafted rookie wide receiver Marcus Lucas and undrafted rookie cornerback Carrington Byndom. Both have made plays to catch your eye. Disappointments? Not really a disappointment, but second-round draft pick Kony Ealy hasn't stood out like I expected. And wide receiver Marvin McNutt, noted as one of the young players Carolina wanted to get a look at after cutting Steve Smith, has struggled.