November 3, 2012; Baton Rouge, LA, USA; Alabama Crimson Tide defensive back Robert Lester (37) against the LSU Tigers during a game at Tiger Stadium. Alabama defeated LSU 21-17. Mandatory Credit: Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports

Carolina Panthers: Will Robert Lester Make The Team?

As the Carolina Panthers continue to monitor the market surrounding free agent strong safety Quintin Mikell, another strong safety currently on the roster, rookie Robert Lester, has a legitimate shot at making the final 53-man roster or having a large role this season.

For the Panthers’ own good, signing Mikell would kill two birds with one stone, as it would provide stability with strong safety and reduce the chances of Lester making the final roster.

While the undrafted free agent hails from Alabama University and its back-to-back championship defense, he was one of the most inconsistent defensive starters for the Crimson Tide in 2012. Despite his intimidating 6’1, 215 pound frame and physical playing style, Lester was often picked apart by opposing offenses in the passing game. Lester’s slow hips and lacking top end speed led to struggles in pass defense.

Those struggles continued at the Senior Bowl, where he was constantly picked apart in one-on-one drills. His inconsistencies in pass defense ultimately led to him not getting selected in April’s draft. But with a depleted group of safeties, particularly at strong safety, Lester is in line to make the final 53-man roster and contribute this season.

According to the Charlotte Observer, Lester is in the mix to earn the starting safety job opposite Charles Godfrey:

Lester, part of three national championship teams at Alabama, worked a lot with the first-team defense during minicamp and is in the mix for the starting spot opposite veteran free safety Charles Godfrey.

While Lester does hail from a high-pedigree football program in Alabama, that shouldn’t give him an advantage over his competition. Even if he doesn’t win the starting strong safety job, he is still in line to make the team, which should be a concern for the Carolina secondary.
His experience would be a valuable commodity, but ultimately adding a starting-caliber safety such as Mikell while finding out over the course of the season if Lester can develop would prove to be a more beneficial decision by the Panthers.


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