Could Zach Kerr shine for the Panthers in Kawann Short’s absence?

(Photo by Grant Halverson/Getty Images) Zach Kerr
(Photo by Grant Halverson/Getty Images) Zach Kerr /

Zack Kerr has a real opportunity to shine for the Carolina Panthers in their Week 2 contest at the Tampa Bay Buccaneers with Kawann Short officially out.

The Carolina Panthers were dealt a blow with the news that Pro Bowl defensive tackle Kawann Short will miss their Week 2 game at the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

Couple this with rookie edge rusher Yetur Gross-Matos also sitting out the contest after being placed in the concussion protocol. And it represents another concern for a defensive line that didn’t exactly show out for the Carolina Panthers during their Week 1 loss to the Las Vegas Raiders.

Missing Short is a body blow in no uncertain terms. He was one of the few veteran players that the Panthers decided to keep around after an offseason of incredible change in personnel. But hopefully, the foot problem that is causing him an issue will be nothing like the torn rotator cuff that placed in on injured/reserve after just two games of the 2019 season.

Zach Kerr could see an increased role for the Carolina Panthers.

Another player’s loss is someone’s opportunity to step up and show what they can do from a starting role. Zach Kerr might well be the man who comes in to replace Short. But do not be surprised if Carolina also utilizes Efe Obada and rookie Bravvion Roy on the interior when the situation calls for it.

Kerr was a free-agent signing this offseason, penning a two-year, $3 million deal that included a $500,000 signing bonus and a further $500,000 guaranteed. He did perform well at training camp and saw plenty of the field in Week 1, turning out in 38.1 percent of the Panthers’ defensive snaps.

Pairing Kerr alongside No. 7 overall pick Derrick Brown on the defensive front would give the rookie a veteran presence to lean on in his first road game. The former Auburn standout recovered from an early injury setback against the Raiders to showcase just what he can bring to the defense going forward. But there is already a tremendous amount of pressure on his shoulders thanks to Short’s absence.

Kerr has been a solid if not spectacular performer during his career so far. He is more than capable of coming into the lineup and doing a good job of replacing Short. And he is nimble enough to get into the backfield more prominently, which is something that the Panthers were desperately lacking in Week 1.

The player boasts career stats of 7.5 sacks, 135 combined tackles, 76 solo tackles, 17 tackles for loss, 18 quarterback hits, and five pass deflections. There did appear to be some deficiencies to the Bucs’ protection in their season opener at the New Orleans Saints and this is something that the Panthers must take advantage of if they are to secure an improbable victory against a team who are aiming for a Super Bowl in 2020.

This represents a significant opportunity for Kerr to make his presence felt. It remains to be seen whether Short’s injury will be anything more than just a one-game deal. But the former Delaware standout needs to impose himself on proceedings and convince Carolina’s coaching staff that he can be relied upon to deliver the goods when it matters most.

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If he can do this, it will be a pleasant surprise for the Panthers and one that might play a substantial role in whatever success comes their way.