4 biggest challenges against the Raiders in Week 1

(Photo by Grant Halverson/Getty Images) Christian McCaffrey
(Photo by Grant Halverson/Getty Images) Christian McCaffrey /
3 of 5
Carolina Panthers
(Photo by Jacob Kupferman/Getty Images) Troy Pride Jr. /

Cornerback troubles

Things look increasingly uncertain for the Carolina Panthers at cornerback. This was made even more concerning with the news that free-agent signing Eli Apple’s lingering injuries forced him onto the injured/reserve list this week, which means he will miss the first three weeks of the season, at least.

This represents a substantial blow despite Apple’s struggles since entering the NFL. Others will need to stand up and be counted or things could get stormy real quick for the Panthers this season.

The pressure on No. 1 option Donte Jackson is enormous. He is the only player remaining with some solid production as a starter in recent seasons and the former LSU standout needs to be at the top of his game on almost every snap.

Troy Pride Jr. will mark his first game at the next level with a starting berth and it remains to be seen whether this is too soon for the rookie. Confidence is high that the fourth-round pick can rise to the challenge. But the Notre Dame product will be getting a crash course in covering NFL receivers over the new few weeks.

Corn Elder, free-agent signing Rasul Douglas, and seventh-rounder Stantley Thomas-Oliver III might also see some time in the rotation. But it is hard to deny this is a threadbare group that could cause some complications for the Panthers.