Can the Carolina Panthers overcome increasing injury problems?
By Dean Jones
There are plenty of injury problems building for the Carolina Panthers as they get set to take on the New Orleans Saints in Week 7.
Injuries are part of every NFL season, that is the nature of the beast. But the Carolina Panthers are losing some key men quickly that might be difficult to overcome given their lack of quality depth across their roster.
This is the last thing that head coach Matt Rhule needed. He has made an eye-catching start to life with the Carolina Panthers and this will only hamper the team’s chances of building some positive momentum against tough opposition in the coming weeks.
There is also the added concern surrounding COVID-19 for the Panthers to contend with. This has been especially prevalent in Carolina over the last couple of weeks, with both Tyler Larsen and Michael Schofield out of action after either contracting or coming into close contact with somebody who has the virus.
Carolina is a heavy underdog for this Sunday’s game at the New Orleans Saints, which would probably have been the case regardless of who was fit to take part. However, not having some prominent individuals is only going to complicate matters as the Panthers look to avoid slumping back to a losing record after showing signs of life in recent weeks.
Injury problems are mounting for the Carolina Panthers.
Starting safety Juston Burris and wide receiver Keith Kirkwood are the latest names to go on the reserve/injured list this week, joining the likes of Christian McCaffrey, Yetur Gross-Matos, and long-term absentee Kawann Short.
Burris has come on a great deal over the last few weeks after taking time settling into his new surroundings. Who replaces him remains unclear, but there is the option for Carolina to move stud rookie Jeremy Chinn back to his normal position after shining so brightly at outside linebacker.
The situation with Kirkwood is unfortunate, with the player barely making it through one half before re-aggravating the clavicle injury that sidelined him for most of training camp and the first five games of the campaign.
He had a shot to become the No. 4 receiving option. But things do not look good for the player’s chances following this latest setback.
Rhule is not going to risk McCaffrey at the Saints. But the face of the franchise might be ready to go when they host the Atlanta Falcons on Thursday Night Football.
There is just no telling what getting the All-Pro back in the lineup will do for morale, but the Panthers should still air on the side of caution regarding putting too much on the player’s shoulders initially.
It’s not just those on the reserve/injured list who are posing concern on the injury front. Curtis Samuel missed their loss against the Bears and if this is a problem that continues in the coming weeks, it will be another body blow for an offense that has looked good for the most part in 2020.
There is also the situation with Donte Jackson to keep an eye on. The No. 1 cornerback has shown flashed of brilliance in a more increased role. But his ability to stay healthy for a consistent period is something that might further complicate his chances of becoming a reliable shutdown presence at the position.
The Panthers just need to roll their sleeves up and find the right sort of formula that can get the most out of their rotational players. That might be easier said than done with what we’ve seen from them so far. But at the very least, it should tell Rhule what sort of improvements are needed to get his team back into postseason contention.