Carolina Panthers rumors seem to confirm Josh Norman has been replaced by a rookie cornerback. Panthers rumors about what the team would do after Norman signed with the Washington Redskins have been pretty prevalent, but thoughts that the team might sign a veteran free agent may have come to an end. A report from NBC Sports states that the team isn’t looking to add any more veterans to the secondary this offseason. This may come as a surprise to some Panthers fans, as Norman could be difficult to replace on defense.
Panthers head coach Ron Rivera did leave the possibility open that the team could look at signing additional players before the 2016 NFL season, but that the team is looking to its rookies at this point. Investing in three cornerbacks during the 2016 NFL Draft was a big statement that the franchise is looking to head in a new direction, with the door open for one of those three rookies to start right away. Rivera addressed the cornerback situation and what might transpire over the summer.
“I guess if we did do something it would be later on. But right now we’re set. We’re very happy with what we’ve seen the last two practices with the young guys. The big part of the technique you get from corners is being able to jam, and you can’t do that during OTAs and minicamp. So what we’ll be looking for really is the skill sets.”
With the 62nd pick of the 2016 NFL Draft, the Carolina Panthers selected Samford cornerback James Bradberry. The Panthers added another cornerback in the third round, selecting West Virginia’s Daryl Worley with the 77nd pick. Then in the fifth round, the Panthers selected Oklahoma cornerback Zack Sanchez. It was very clear that the Panthers intended to rebuild depth at cornerback during the draft and by taking three players with successive picks, the team has done just that.
The Panthers only drafted five players this year, so by taking three cornerbacks the team broadcasted a clear plan of attack. In addition to the three corners, the Panthers selected Louisiana Tech defensive tackle Vernon Butler in the first round and then Montana State tight end Beau Sandland in the seventh round. NFL.com analyst Chad Reuter gave the Panthers an overall grade of C- for the five selections. He also talked about the defensive backs at-length in his review of the team.
“The Panthers picked up two defensive backs in the second and third rounds, both with good traits. Some other need areas were left alone, however, like the offensive line. And trading a couple of Day 3 picks was a handsome price to pay to get Worley. Sanchez isn’t very thick, but he is competitive and able to make turnovers. But while they took a third defensive back, and found an intriguing tight end in Sandland, they didn’t address the offensive line or running back spots.”
There are certainly going to be more Carolina Panthers rumors about the secondary as the summer camps continue and the 2016 NFL preseason approaches. It’s safe to assume that a position battle will take place among James Bradberry, Daryl Worley, and Zack Sanchez to take over for Josh Norman. NFL analysts have debated for a while about whether Norman was a top corner talent or the product of the Panthers’ system, so how his replacement does is going to be watched very closely.
Panthers coach Ron Rivera hasn’t tipped his hand about which guy has an inside edge after seeing them practice, but the real positional competition won’t begin until the players can start participating in contact drills. The Carolina Panthers have eyes on a return to the Super Bowl, so finding the right fit at cornerback is going to be one of the more important tasks the coaching staff has this offseason. Can the Panthers replace Norman with a rookie and not miss a step?
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