What does A.J. Bouye’s return mean for the Carolina Panthers?

(Jim Dedmon-USA TODAY Sports) A.J. Bouye
(Jim Dedmon-USA TODAY Sports) A.J. Bouye /

10. Panthers -8.0. 2-0. 87. NFL Network. Thursday, September 23. 1-1. 8.20 PM ET

Talented cornerback A.J. Bouye is set to make his long-awaited debut for the Carolina Panthers on Thursday Night Football at the Houston Texans.

Just when things couldn’t get better for the Carolina Panthers, their loaded defense is getting another substantial boost on Thursday night with the return of one of their top free-agent signings. A.J. Bouye‘s suspension is now over and the cornerback is set to make his competitive debut in Week 3 at the Houston Texans on Thursday Night Football.

Of all the signings made by the Panthers this offseason, Bouye perhaps comes with the most intrigue.

His production in 2020 didn’t go according to plan with the Denver Broncos that concluded with a six-game ban for violating the league’s substance-abuse policy. But it’s worth remembering he is a former Pro Bowler that was regarded as one of the best in the business with the Jacksonville Jaguars.

Bouye is projected to come in as the nickel cornerback with Jaycee Horn and Donte Jackson on the outside. This has the potential to be a highly productive trio and these claims are only enhanced by how well the defensive front is causing havoc through Week 2.

Carolina Panthers could take their time with A.J. Bouye.

It would be a surprise to see Bouye play every snap right out of the gate. His in-game conditioning will be tested despite the lack of talent on the Texans, so the Panthers might be prudent to bring him along gradually ahead of sterner challenges in the not-too-distant future.

Carolina needs Bouye firing on all cylinders at the Dallas Cowboys and their exceptional passing attack. The veteran should treat this like a preseason game with a little more intensity about it, but the Panthers have enough on the depth chart to cope with Houston and their rookie quarterback Davis Mills.

Providing Bouye returns to the form of old, then he might just be the missing piece of the puzzle. Carolina’s defense is leading the NFL in multiple statistical categories and going up against Mills should provide them even more turnover opportunities they have to capitalize on.

Bouye has been around the block a few times.

This savvy veteran mentality is something that’s benefitted the Panthers’ young dynamic playmakers on defense following some impressive free-agent recruits. Providing there aren’t complications fitness-wise, expect the Central Florida product to make a notable and instant impression.

There is a slight chance things don’t turn out well for Bouye in Carolina. His level of performance just wasn’t up to the required standard last time around and the Panthers can ill-afford for him to become a weak link considering the momentum being built by Phil Snow.

Thankfully, the Panthers won’t ask Bouye to man an outside cover position. Horn and Jackson will deal with that.

If Bouye can provide stability from the slot and showcase his tackling prowess consistently, he’ll become a real asset for this team in no time at all.

It will be interesting to see how much of the field Bouye sees in Week 3. He was injured for a portion of training camp and didn’t play at all in the warmup games, so the potential for growing pains is there for all to see.

Must Read. 4 developing problems the Carolina Panthers need to fix through Week 2. light

That being said, Bouye is a veteran who knows how to prepare his body. Something that could enable the corner to hit the ground running in a new environment.