Panthers: Injured returnees could boost defense in 2018

SAN JOSE, CA - FEBRUARY 04: Linebacker Luke Kuechly (Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images)
SAN JOSE, CA - FEBRUARY 04: Linebacker Luke Kuechly (Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images) /

These Carolina Panthers were injured last season but could make a big impact this year…

Two Carolina Panthers players drafted last season barely had the ink dry on new contracts before suffering season ending injuries. Defensive end Daeshon Hall, drafted in the third-round and cornerback Corn Elder with the next pick in round-five both missed a majority of their rookie season.

Elder suffered a knee injury early during training camp and never had a real opportunity to earn a position after being sidelined. The cornerback entered camp with high praise as Carolina fully expected Elder to compete for the nickel slot position and once healthy, he should do so again this season.

The former Miami standout was seen as a bargain pick with all of the skills to compete in the NFL although his size was to blame for him falling down in the draft. At 5-foot-10 and 185 pounds, Elder is of similar size to the veteran Captain Munnerlyn who saw a limited role last season.

Along the defensive front, a returning Julius Peppers helps to bolster an already talented defensive line but losses of Star Lotulelei and Charles Johnson could have an impact. General manager Marty Hurney attempted to combat the former by signing free agent Dontari Poe to a three-year deal but has yet to add a defensive end.

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With Peppers, Mario Addison, Wes Horton and a quickly developing Bryan Cox Jr., an additional contributing player would allow the Panthers to employ a rotational system similar to last season. Peppers ended up starting, playing more than anticipated and has yet to show any sign of slowing down. For this reason, just imagine the impact a fresh Peppers could have when needed.

Daeshon Hall would allow for that to happen. Starting opposite last year’s number one overall pick Myles Garrett at Texas A&M, Hall made a name for himself rushing the passer. Hall accumulated over 10 sacks and 25 tackles for a loss during his last two seasons of collegiate football.

Expected to contribute, Hall was active for the season opener at San Francisco  but his nine defensive plays would be the extent of his first professional season. Sidelined with a knee injury, it will be interesting to get a good look at Hall through the summer and into training camp this year.

Next: Offseason Roster Review - Offense

A healthy return of both could keep Hurney from targeting a cornerback or defensive end early in the NFL Draft next month.