Oh Godfrey, No Safety in Carolina's Secondary!

Oh Godfrey, Cam broke a rib. Oh Godfrey, Carolina has an entirely new receiving core. Oh Godfrey, Jordan Gross's retirement pushed Byron Bell to left tackle, and this line could be even worse than last year's. Oh Godfrey, Panther fans are in a panic. What, there’s more?  Oh Godfrey!

Byron BellYes, there’s is another weakness that hasn’t been discussed as frequently--safety. Personnel deficiencies and injuries, just like last year, could place an undue amount of pressure on a defense that is almost entirely predicated on the pass rush. Those hogmollies up front best pin their ears back and get after the quarterback, because it’s not clear Carolina could stave off a powerful air attack.

Safety wasn't Carolina's strongest attribute last season.  Mike Mitchell's punishing hits and flashy safety blitzes created a false sense of strength, one that even landed Mitchell a fat contract with Pittsburgh. Carolina’s secondary just wasn’t the best dish on the defensive buffet.  Injury and inconsistency forced Gettleman to make-over the recipe with old-journeyman and fresh, near unheard, of ingredients. Sure the dish was edible, but hardly delectable.  

Captain Munnerlyn, the fan favorite mini-sized cornerback, and Mike Mitchell’s departure temporarily highlighted the deficiency.  Dave Gettleman's acquisition of two rival NFC South safeties, Thomas DeCoud (FS) and Roman Harper (SS), helped to quell some concerns as departures of Jordon Gross and Steve Smith grabbed most’s attention.  Although to a lesser degree, the problem remained. 

DeCoud appears to be locked in at free safety, but Robert Lester's inconsistent preseason and recent ankle injury, Roman Harpers oldness, and rookie Tre Boston's absence entirely, only sours the taste of this defensive dish once again.  There are some guys, like Anderson Russell and Colin Jones, who are battling to solidify a roster spot in this depleted backfield, but according to Joe Person, the Panthers haven’t been happy with what they have seen.

Roman Harper
The secondary has been a topic of discussion at C3 for quite sometime. We’ve been particularly interested in Charles Godfrey’s move to nickel corner.  The Panthers reasoned that Godfrey, who played some corner in college, could adjust to this position a little easier after his Achilles injury.  He provided a bigger body that could match up with some of those more athletic tight-ends and slot receivers, as Bene Benwikere developed.  In our Training Camp Cuts podcast, in mid-July, we speculated that Godfrey would wind up at strong safety before the season’s end.  We originally believed this would come from Roman Harper simply not outperforming the younger guys, while expecting Benwikere to develop faster than most expected.

After a C3 interview with Bill Voth and Lester’s recent injury, our perspective may have changed slightly, but the outcome remains the same--Godfrey will end back up at safety.  Our rationale was that Harper was just too old and a little too washed up, resulting in him losing the starting position. Voth, however, articulated an additional concern, Harper may just be nicked up all season and not have a chance to lose the job. Well Harper is back on the field for the moment, but the Panthers don’t expect him to do the job alone.  Today, Joe Person reported: 

Godfrey is moving back to safety, at least in some capacity. I like Godfrey in this role better. He hasn’t adjusted particularly well to nickel corner.  He’s been beaten in practice and in the preseason repeatedly. Godfrey was in on coverage on the play where Chris Hogan broke a big reception.  Now there’s a need, and he’s about the only experienced option the Panthers have at the moment. 

Oh Godfrey, the Panthers are in a pinch right now, and the secondary is a big part of the concern.  I’m interested to see how the Panthers try to address this weakness. Counting on Tre Boston to contribute is a bit far fetched.  Some believe that Colin Jones can help. We’ll be watching to see if Gettleman tries to pick up a road warrior like he did last year. He better be a gem, or you can hold your breath on every play where the front four doesn’t get at the quarterback.  Remember that last play in the Miami game?  Well that will be the spoiled milk if Carolina can’t plate the proper defensive dish this season.