Grading every Panthers positional group after Week 1 of free agency

(Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports) Morgan Fox
(Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports) Morgan Fox /
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Carolina Panthers
(Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports) Donte Jackson /

Carolina Panthers cornerbacks

The cornerback position has been a place of inconsistency and confusing moves since the departure of Josh Norman in free agency. While that decision seems to have aged well, the walk of James Bradberry certainly hasn’t.

Donte Jackson has stepped in well as the No.1 corner for the Carolina Panthers and shows the ability to lock down opposing stars when called upon, last season’s turf toe issues notwithstanding. Even with that injury, he was still above average, allowing a completion percentage of only 56.9.

Beyond that is where things get a bit hazy. Last season was marked by injuries and rookie mistakes at the No.2 corner position which some may argue is more important, especially with a lockdown type like Jackson across the field.

Veteran Rasul Douglas played well after being claimed off waivers but faded slightly near the end of the season, having two stints on the COVID-19 list didn’t really help things. That play has more than likely priced him out of the Panthers’ range which may not be a bad thing in the long run if last year’s performance was more of a flash in the pan.

The other option at corner last season was rookie Troy Pride Jr. who played admirably for a fourth-round pick thrust into a starting role. However, the former Notre Dame speedster gave up a completion number more akin to a linebacker than a corner and showed obvious inexperience at times.

Former draft pick turned practice squad member Corn Elder was at slot corner for most of the year and while he did well, he was on the practice squad for a reason and has not been brought back as yet.

The only addition the Panthers made at corner this offseason so far was journeyman Rashaan Melvin, who has stayed on a team in consecutive years a total of one time in his career and has never played a full campaign.

While Melvin’s stats certainly show promise with a completion percentage of only 63 percent in 2019, the former Detroit Lion sat out the entirety of the 2020 season due to COVID concerns and is on the older side at 31.

This addition is more of a band-aid than a plan for the future. But maybe with a redshirt year behind the veteran, Pride Jr. can develop into the corner Carolina needs alongside Jackson.

Grade: C

With good health and improved play, this squad can be one of the best in the league. But hope for better can only get you so far in the NFL and the Panthers should be considering ways to improve behind Jackson in the near future.