How worried should the Panthers be about Eli Apple?

(Photo by Jonathan Bachman/Getty Images) Eli Apple
(Photo by Jonathan Bachman/Getty Images) Eli Apple /

Just how concerned should the Carolina Panthers be regarding cornerback Eli Apple’s ability to overcome injury in 2020?

The Carolina Panthers will be without the services of Eli Apple for their Week 1 opener against the Las Vegas Raiders. He missed a considerable period of training camp and now finds himself on the sidelines during the most critical period of preparation before competitive action.

Apple was set to fill in as the No. 2 starter after penning a one-year, $3 million deal following the 2020 NFL Draft. The Carolina Panthers are giving him one more chance to convince people that he is worthy of being a starter in the NFL. But it is hard not to be a little bit concerned about the team’s decision to put him on the injured/reserve list, meaning the player will miss the first three weeks of the season.

Eli Apple’s absence is a big blow for the Carolina Panthers.

This represents a significant blow for Apple and the Panthers. They already have plenty of questions surrounding their cornerback group going into the season and losing one of their more experienced players could mean struggles are inevitable.

The Panthers did bring back Efe Obada with Apple out of action for the first few weeks. This was a popular decision from a fan perspective. But it does not detract from the severe complications that could emerge from their secondary.

Only time will tell as to whether this is going to be anything more than a short-term absence for Apple. The new regulations mean he could return to the set-up in three weeks. But the player’s conditioning to come in and contribute right away is another potential red flag regarding this situation.

It’s easy to forget that Apple was once the No. 10 overall pick. His supreme skill set has not been matched by strong performances on the field so far and it remains to be seen whether he can show the right sort of resolve to get over his latest setback.

Carolina’s decision-makers should be monitoring this situation closely. They do have a little more than $7 million in remaining salary cap space. So the organization might explore the possibility of bringing another veteran in if things do not go according to plan over the next couple of weeks.

The situation regarding Apple is concerning, to say the least. The Panthers were counting on him to be a plug and play starter in the short-term with a view to a longer stay if everything clicks into place. This is now well and truly up in the air and only leaves more uncertainty in an area of the field that could become a weak link against some exceptional passing attacks on the schedule.

This also piles more pressure on Donte Jackson to shut down one side as the Panthers’ No. 1 option. The jury is still out regarding his ability to take this necessary step-up in class and if the former LSU standout begins poorly, then things could turn sour very quickly in Carolina.

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Apple will miss games against the Raiders, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, and Los Angeles Chargers, who are undoubtedly salivating at the prospect of coming up against this secondary. Panthers fans should strap themselves in for what could be a bumpy ride in 2020.