Bradberry Injury Scare Reminds Panthers Secondary is Still Thin

James Bradberry and Kelvin Benjamin

While Carolina made a few moves to bolster the Panthers secondary by signing nickel corner Captain Munnerlyn and veteran safety Mike Adams, it’s clear they are hedging their bets on young outside corners James Bradberry and Daryl Worley. Bradberry’s injury scare only highlights the weight of this wager.  

Today, there was a collective gasp as Bradberry was carted off the practice field after going to the ground awkwardly in a pile of Luke Kuechly and an unnamed wideout. Before we get too worried, the cart just seems to be a matter of convenience and early indications are that this was a somewhat minor wrist injury. I tried pausing as I watched the tweets fly about Bradberry being hurt, reminding myself that Twitter freak-outs are real and that, just because six reporters are independently tweeting out the news we beg them for, it doesn’t mean it’s freak-out worthy. 

As I’m embarked in these therapeutic exercises, I start thinking, “wait, there is a reason to be concerned.” Bradberry’s injury, however, minor only reminds that the Panthers secondary is still pretty thin.

Bradberry and Worley are the starters and there doesn’t seem to be much competition or depth outside of them. There aren’t any veteran players who have much experience or noted success on the roster. The closest you get to finding a serviceable substitute if Bradberry or Worley went down are moving Munnerlyn to the outside, trying out Teddy Williams, or thrusting an undersized Corn Elder into a challenging job for a rookie who many think is slated to be a nickel corner.

Sure, Elder’s former college coach thinks he has the real makings of an outside NFL corner despite his diminutive size but is that burden fair for him to shoulder? Yea, we hope 5th round draft pick, Zack Sanchez, works out, but he didn’t even make the team last year. 
After releasing safety Tre Boston this offseason, things aren’t much better at safety either. Kurt Coleman has been a gem over the last couple of years, but adding a 37-year old Mike Adams doesn’t seem to be a long-term solution for the Panthers defensive backfield. Hopes are high for Dean Marlowe, but has anyone ever seen him play all that much?

Sadly, Bradberry’s wrist injury has me freaking out. Not because of the injury, but because it brought something into to focus that we’ve tried to forget in the midst of an exciting offensive offseason for the Panthers—the secondary is very thin and based more on potential than proven play!  

Every year, Dave Gettleman gambles on a position group. In 2014, Gettleman went all in with Byron Bell and Kelvin Benjamin. The Panther offense was dependent on a guy who had been an average right tackle at best, panning out as a starter on the left and rookie Kelvin Benjamin shouldering the load almost entirely at wide receiver. In 2015 and 2016, Gettleman bet on Mike Remmers. The bets paid at times, but when they didn’t the losses were tremendous. When Michael Oher went out for the season with concussion problems, it was Mike Remmers or bust at left tackle. It was a bust. 

Panthers Depth Chart Cornerback

  • James Bradberry
  • Daryl Williams
  • Captain Munnerlyn
  • Teddy Williams
  • Corn Elder
  • Zack Sanchez
  • Cole Luke
  • Jeff Richards

Panthers Depth Chart Safety

  • Kurt Coleman
  • Mike Adams
  • Colin Jones
  • Dean Marlowe
  • Brian Blechen
  • Travell Dixon
  • L.J. McCray
  • Dezmen Southward
     

As it stands now, Gettleman is betting on a young group of cornerbacks to shoulder the load. While all signs indicate they are up for the challenge, one injury could derail the whole thing. 

By Tony Dunn
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