CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Topics to keep an eye on as the Carolina Panthers begin the on-the-field portion of organized team activities:
The obvious -- No. 1 wide receiver Kelvin Benjamin likely won’t participate because of a strained hamstring suffered two weeks ago, so look for second-round draft pick Devin Funchess to get a lot more repetitions. I’ll be interested to see how Funchess and the free-agent acquisitions -- Ted Ginn Jr. and Jarrett Boykin -- blend into the offense. This also will be a chance for Stephen Hill, who spent last season on the practice squad after being released by the Jets, to begin resurrecting his career.
The not so obvious – Andrew Norwell was a pleasant surprise as the starting left guard at the end of last season. It seems like a given that he’ll be the starter going into 2015. But with Amini Silatolu back from a knee injury, he could make things interesting at a couple of positions. Silatolu has started all 25 games in which he’s played guard the past three seasons after being selected in the second round of the 2012 draft. Last year Silatolu was set to be the right tackle to replace Chandler before his knee flared up. Perhaps he’ll get a look behind Oher at left tackle. He definitely gives offensive line coach John Matsko options.
The intriguing -- Quarterback Cam Newton missed offseason workouts a year ago while rehabbing from left ankle surgery. In his absence the Panthers utilized free-agent acquisition Joe Webb to run the read-option offense. With Newton healthier than he’s been since the Panthers selected him with the first pick in 2011, it’ll be interesting to see how many reps Webb gets at quarterback versus wide receiver. Keeping three quarterbacks might be tough this season.
. . . As I’ve said several times here, Mike Remmers will begin these workouts as the starter. But he’ll get plenty of pressure from fourth-round draft pick Daryl Williams out of Oklahoma. Nate Chandler, who started the first 11 games last season before being sidelined with a knee injury, will be limited and likely won’t figure into the competition now. I’m also interested to see who lines up No. 2 at left tackle behind Michael Oher.
. . . Roman Harper unquestionably offers leadership in the secondary as the starting strong safety. But at 32, if he shows any sign of a dropoff as he did at times last season, free-agent acquisition Kurt Coleman is waiting in the wings.
. . . The Panthers replaced 2013 sack leader Greg Hardy by committee last season. They’re looking for somebody who can step up more as the every-down right defensive end that Hardy was before his domestic violence case ended his career in Carolina. Kony Ealy, a 2014 second-round pick out of Missouri, has the potential to be that player. So does Frank Alexander, who was suspended for the first 12 games last season for violating the NFL’s substance abuse policy.