Carolina Panthers Training Camp Preview: Defensive Backs

NEW ORLEANS - NOVEMBER 08: Cornerback Chris Gamble #20 of the Carolina Panthers intercepts a pass intended for Marques Colston #12 of the New Orleans Saints at Louisiana Superdome on November 8, 2009 in New Orleans, Louisiana. (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)ATLANTA - SEPTEMBER 20: Richard Marshall #31 of the Carolina Panthers is slow to get up against the Atlanta Falcons at Georgia Dome on September 20, 2009 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)

We’re coming down to the wire. Today, we’re rolling with the defensive backs, and tomorrow we’ll wrap it all up with special teams. Count ‘em, one day until players report to training camp, and two until it all kicks off.

In today’s edition, defensive backs are comprised of cornerbacks and safeties.

During the offseason, it seemed as though one player had survived the purge of veterans. Weeks later, safety Chris Harris was on a flight back to Chicago, as Carolina had just traded him for some help at the linebacker position, in Jamar Williams. Was it a good move? Well, trading Harris elsewhere was a good move. He was slow in pass-coverage.

Was acquiring Williams for Harris a good move? Well, so far it seems like it, if not just for the added depth factor at the position. I’ve heard a lot of good on Williams, so we’ll see what happens there.

So with the loss of Harris, this leaves the team with more youth at another position. Currently starting in Harris’ place should be Charles Godfrey, although I am now hearing it’s Sherrod Martin.

I personally would like to see Martin used at free safety and Godfrey at strong safety, but so long as the guys are in the right place, I suppose it doesn’t matter all that much.

The Panthers were quite active in the market for defensive backs during the offseason. At safety, Carolina brought in Aaron Francisco and Marcus Hudson. Just to solidify the position a little more with depth, the team also drafted Jordan Pugh out of Texas A&M.

It seems to me that for now, the starting jobs belong to Godfrey and Martin, but with very little difference in age and experience between the veterans and the rookie, there will still be competition for the backup positions (which is like one, maybe two). Francisco and Hudson are earmarked for special teams at this point, but may still compete for a safety spot.

The cornerbacks is a much longer list. Add to that, Carolina saw some changes at the position in terms of free agency, and who is no longer with the team. Dante’ Wesley finds himself a new home in Detroit, but the Cats still have their core of corners returning once again. Chris Gamble and Richard Marshall will once again man the two starting corner spots, but who comes in to play nickel? And might the Panthers also utilize a dime corner?

The man who must perform this year and show his worth on more than just special teams, is none other than Captain Munnerlyn. He looked really good during training camp and practices last season, but fizzled for most of the regular season.

Munnerlyn’s direct competition looks to be C.J. Wilson. Wilson is a four-year vet who has shown some upside when needed, but to me, Munnerlyn fits more into a nickel package, where Wilson might find himself more-or-less relegated to special teams play and any dime packages (if the Panthers choose to use any).

Not to come up short-handed, Carolina also brought in extra help at the corner position. In free agency, the team signed Marcus Walker. The team also signed Robert McClain and R.J. Stanford, who are both rookies this season.

Once again, this is another position with a lot of youth and unknown answers. There are four guys (Marshall, Gamble, Godfrey, and Martin) with whom we are familiar; two of which (Godfrey and Martin) we are still learning about, as they are considerably younger than Marshall and Gamble in “football years.”

Tomorrow’s the last day. We look at special teams tomorrow, which will encompass the return game, placekicker, punter, and long snapper. Not a whole lot to talk about, but there are a few things to look at, so stay tuned!

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Topics: Aaron Francisco, C.J. Wilson, Captain Munnerlyn, Carolina Panthers, Charles Godfrey, Chris Gamble, Chris Harris, Cornerbacks, Dante Wesley, Defensive Backs, Jordan Pugh, Marcus Hudson, Marcus Walker, NFL, R.J. Stanford, Richard Marshall, Robert McClain, Safeties, Sherrod Martin, Training Camp Preview

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  • John

    A bit harsh on the Captain weren’t you? He did have 44 tackles with just 4 starts. And he did miss time with a concussion. All things considered, he was a rookie, I think he played pretty well and I think he could be a pretty good player for us for a long time. Also I think CJ hasn’t shown much in his 4 years and Munnerlyn pretty much took his spot. I would be surprised if CJ gets another contract.

    Pugh could be a real nice pickup. The issues he has are coachable and he has something you can’t coach – speed. He is a bit of a tweener but I could see him developing into a pretty good corner. Not sure if his hands will improve enough to be a great corner. I think he’d have to add some weight to play NFL safety effectively but he could be a terror on special teams right away. A great hitter who isn’t afraid to throw himself into it.

  • J. Gore

    Another good article. Although I have to agree with John. I think you were a little off base with Captain. He’s earned his spot on our roster and I think he’s the Steve Smith of our defense. He’s undersized and has always been told he couldn’t play the position. But what he lacks in size he makes up for with speed and heart.

    • http://www.blogtalkradio.com/blitzradio Eric Quackenbush

      I don’t know guys, I didn’t think I was being harsh on Munnerlyn at all, really. He played poorly on special teams for most of last year and didn’t really start picking it up until the later part of the season. He did pretty well when used on defense, but that wasn’t too often; he was used in more nickel back situations. I think he’ll do fine, but he has to improve his game from last year.

      • John

        Well I am kind of giving the rook a pass on special teams last year. That unit has sucked for a while. And I think that flows downhill as it were. Not a lot of leadership going on. I am hoping for real improvement there.

        I was pleased with his play in general but you are right he can certainly get better.

        • http://www.blogtalkradio.com/blitzradio Eric Quackenbush

          Overall, there’s room for a ton of improvement at just about every position (running back included — Mike Goodson) on this team. No man stands alone, that’s for sure.

  • J. Gore

    I still say it was a little to harsh. He made good plays on special teams as far as kick coverage and tackling and played very well at nickel back. He could stand to improve his coverage abilities. But that shouldn’t be a problem as long as Gamble and Marshall stay healthy. No he didn’t do very well as a returner but he won’t be playing that roll this year. I’ve never liked the thought of db’s returning kicks anyway. Goodson does however need to improve his game. I would really like to see him returning the ball instead of fumbling it. And I think I’d rather see him returning punts instead of Armanti Edwards. Don’t like the idea of a guy as small framed as him returning the ball. But hey I could be wrong on that. After all Smitty done it.

  • mcap

    Whether it’s the corners,safeties or the waterboy I am looking forward to finally having the Panthers back in SC. It has been a miserable off-season,with everything going on around the country,and football will bring with it a much needed break from the constant blathering.

    There are spots to be had at just about all positions,players know they have as much a chance as the starters. So get your coolers ready,carry plenty of “refreshments”and…..

    GET READY FOR SOME FOOTBALL!!!!

    • John

      You’re right the distraction will do us all some good. I will be hanging on every camp report. I wish I could get down there but don’t think I’ll make it this year. I know Eric and the guys will do their best to keep us up to date and I look forward to over analyzing everything that happens along the way :)

      • http://www.blogtalkradio.com/blitzradio Eric Quackenbush

        “I look forward to over analyzing everything that happens along the way.”
        Uh-oh, lol.

        Just kidding, John, I always appreciate your and J’s opinions and thoughts on here…And anyone else who wishes to comment, as well.

        We will definitely do our best to bring you guys (and everyone else) the best we have to offer.

  • John

    I know you guys will.

    BTW been spreading the word on the blog to try to get some other fans on who will post a bit this season. I figure the more the merrier.

    • http://www.blogtalkradio.com/blitzradio Eric Quackenbush

      Sounds great, John! We certainly appreciate all the reads (and comments) we get! More always makes for merrier. Thank you!

  • G. Cash

    “During the offseason, it seemed as though one player had survived the purge of veterans. Weeks later, safety Chris Harris was on a flight back to Chicago, as Carolina had just traded him for some help at the linebacker position, in Jamar Williams. Was it a good move? Well, trading Harris elsewhere was a good move. He was slow in pass-coverage.”

    Stop the bitter talk. They played their best ball with Harris back there. This wasn’t about Harris play…It was about how much money he was making. He will be missed, especially with two safeties still learning. And neither one are vocal. So the verdict on how perfect this trade is still out. But let’s not act like Harris was not a big reason of the success of the secondary and defense.

    • http://www.blogtalkradio.com/blitzradio Eric Quackenbush

      What’s bitter? I said nothing bitter about Harris…merely stating facts. Harris was slow in pass coverage. He hit hard, when defending the run. He hit hard when he could defend slower receivers.