Veteran safety Mike Adams recently described James Bradberry as a “quiet assassin.” He’s right. While Adams was acknowledging Bradberry’s potential, the second-year player also has the ability to kill the Panthers defense. It’s likely not going to be with poor play that Bradberry could kill Carolina. He’s had a great camp and only looks to be getting better every day. It would be the absence of his play that could ruin Carolina’s potentially dominant defense. It wouldn’t be with his play, however. It would be his absence that would be the silent killer.
On a team with Luke Kuechly, Kawann Short, Thomas Davis, and Julius Peppers, it sounds strange to say James Bradberry is the most important player of the Panthers defense. One doesn’t have to be the best to be the most important though. Just a year ago, I suggested that Michael Oher was the most critical component to Carolina’s offense outside of Cam Newton. When Oher suffered a season ending concussion early in the season, it showed. When Carolina moved Remmers from right tackle to replace Oher. The damage was more than just the poor play of Mike Remmers, however. The move called up Daryl Williams to play right tackle and when Ryan Kalil suffered a shoulder injury, it placed a stress on Carolina’s reserves that couldn’t withstand the poor play of Remmers and the inconsistent play of Williams that ended with injury.
Carolina saw last year how important Bradberry was even as a rookie. After suffering a toe injury against Atlanta, the Falcons proceeded to shred the Panthers secondary for over 500 yds in the air. Over the next three weeks without Bradberry, Carolina struggled tremendously slowing opposing teams passing attacks, allowing 349 yds on average. More injuries weakened the Panthers secondary, and Bradberry’s began a month long shuffle that Carolina never could fully endure.
There isn’t much behind Bradberry in experience or even talent this year either. Sure, optimism surrounds second-year player, Daryl Worley, but we haven’t seen much more than a strong finish in 2016 and a solid start to camp in 2017. Carolina did bring back Captain Munnerlyn to man the nickel corner spot and he could play outside if necessary, but it wouldn’t be ideal. Much like the shuffle that occurred on the offensive line last year, moving Munnerlyn outside would only weaken an important position in the secondary, the one he was brought in specifically to improve. Any depth that Carolina has tried to establish behind Munnerlyn was washed way with news of Corn Elder’s patella stress fracture. He hasn’t seen any reps in training camp, making his ability to contribute significantly in his rookie season less and less likely.
Max Henson stated that he believed Carolina’s defense would go as far as this young pair of corners could take them. I have to agree, leaving Bradberry as the silent assassin who can either kill opposing quarterbacks or this team’s defensive potential.
By Tony Dunn
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