3 Panthers players who need to step up in Eli Apple’s absence

(Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images) Rasul Douglas
(Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images) Rasul Douglas /
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Carolina Panthers
(Photo by Jacob Kupferman/Getty Images) Troy Pride Jr. /

Troy Pride Jr.

The Carolina Panthers were expecting big things from Troy Pride Jr. before Eli Apple’s injury. But this is going to thrust him into a more prominent starting position from the word go.

Pride Jr. was a fourth-round pick in the 2020 NFL Draft who comes to the next level with a substantial amount of promise. The former Notre Dame standout does have some kinks he needs to work out against more imposing wide receivers. But his skill set leaves a great deal of optimism regarding his chances.

His exceptional speed to go down the field with receivers is something that will stand him in good stead. There is some room for improvement with Pride Jr.’s decision-making and tackling in open space. But his performances during training camp really caught the eye going up against the Panthers’ talented wide receiver group in team drills.

This is going to be a baptism of fire for Pride Jr. Rookie cornerbacks tend to go through their fair share of struggles as they acclimatize to the NFL and if he does not adjust quickly things could get stormy in a hurry.

The Panthers have little alternative other than to go with Pride Jr. on the outside. Their glaring lack of depth is there for all to see and putting so much pressure on a rookie to produce the goods when it matters most might do more harm in the long run.