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Carolina Panthers 2014 Training Camp Preview

By John McMullen, NFL Editor

(SportsNetwork.com) -

REPORT DATE: July 24

SITE: Wofford College, Spartanburg, SC

CAMP CONFIDENTIAL: If there is one team which seems destined to take a step back on paper in 2014, it's probably the Carolina Panthers, who finished 12-4 in 2013.

Cam Newton underwent left ankle surgery in March and wasn't ready for serious offseason work while receiver Steve Smith, perhaps the best player in franchise history, is now in Baltimore. Also, steady left tackle Jordan Gross called it a career and pass-rushing star Greg Hardy is dealing with some significant legal issues and could be facing a suspension.

The biggest issue seems to be at receiver, a group which is headlined by C- level free agent pickups Jerricho Cotchery and Jason Avant, along with rookie first-round pick Kelvin Benjamin. Meanwhile converted right tackle Byron Bell is penciled in to replace Gross.

KEY OFFENSIVE ACQUISITION: The Panthers needed help at wide receiver and jumped at the 6-foot-5 Benjamin at No. 28 overall. It remains to be seen if Benjamin has the suddenness to be anything more than an outside the numbers, ball-aware threat but either way the Florida State product filled a big need.

KEY DEFENSIVE ACQUISITION: Veteran safety Thomas Decoud, who made the Pro Bowl in Atlanta after the 2012 season, will be asked to help replace the departed Mike Mitchell.

Decoud has lost a step but he's a pretty instinctive safety who is well-versed in both phases and could be rejuvenated playing behind Carolina's stout front seven.

PRESEASON SCHEDULE (All Times Eastern):

Aug 8 - vs. Buffalo, 7:30 PM Aug 17 - vs. Kansas City, 8:00 PM Aug 22 - at New England, 7:30 PM Aug 28 - at Pittsburgh, 7:30 PM

07/17 13:24:07 ET

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Scoreboard
MLB
Final
COL 16
LOS 2
Final
ARI 2
SFG 4
Final
PIT 9
BOS 1
Final
BAL 6
TOR 1
Final
NYM 3
MIA 4
Final
TAM 2
NYY 3
Final
ATL 3
WAS 1
Final
CHC 3
CIN 1
Final
KAN 6
CWS 2
Final
HOU 0
CLE 2
Final
MIN 8
DET 4
Final
STL 2
MIL 0
Final
ANA 5
SEA 0
Final
OAK 1
TEX 6
Final
SDP 2
PHI 5
3:35pm Today
OAK
TEX
 
7:05pm Tonight
PIT
BOS
 
7:05pm Tonight
NYY
TOR
 
7:10pm Tonight
MIA
WAS
 
8:05pm Tonight
CHC
LOS
 
8:10pm Tonight
HOU
CLE
 
8:15pm Tonight
STL
MIL
 
8:40pm Tonight
COL
ARI
 
9:10pm Tonight
SDP
PHI
 
10:05pm Tonight
ANA
SEA
 
7:30pm Tonight
KST
AUB
8:25pm Tonight
ATL
TAM