How can the Carolina Panthers’ secondary emerge as a top-tier unit during the 2022 season?
There is a lot to like about the Carolina Panthers within their secondary next season. Losing Stephon Gilmore in free agency was a calculated risk, with those in power relying on some young potential on the roster to make the strides needed to become impactful and consistent in equal measure.
The Panthers invested heavily in strengthening their defense via the draft and the trade market in recent years. Something that has to bear fruit in the coming months as Carolina looks to finally start trending in the right direction under Matt Rhule.
Keeping Donte Jackson was a huge boost after the former second-round selection signed a new deal. The Panthers will also get Jaycee Horn back to full fitness, which could lock down one side of the field providing there are no further complications following a broken foot suffered in Week 3 against the Houston Texans.
Couple this with the expected improvements of Keith Taylor and 2020 first-round pick C.J. Henderson, and it’s not hard to see why the cornerback room could be one of real strength.
Jeremy Chinn remains the standout feature on the backend and the Southern Illinois product has a new partner at safety in the form of Xavier Woods, who was a notable free-agent arrival from the Minnesota Vikings and could also strengthen their efficiency in the passing game.
Carolina Panthers’ secondary is hard to assess, according to Pro Football Focus
Despite having all this upside, everything has to come together quickly. Something that was recently highlighted by Michael Renner of Pro Football Focus, who ranked Carolina’s secondary atop Tier 3 (Ascending Units), which was No. 15 overall across the league in his preseason rankings.
"“Trying to rank this Panthers secondary prior to the 2022 season is somewhat of a fool’s errand. You won’t find any other units in the league that feature two cornerbacks drafted in the top 10 within the past three years. Jaycee Horn is likely the guy who could push this unit up from Tier 3 to Tier 2 if he comes back healthy from a broken foot. In three starts last year, he allowed only one catch on five targets for eight yards.”"
This is a fair assessment of the Panthers.
At least for now.
If they are to make some serious strides next season and become a true force to be reckoned with, then you can bet your life that Steve Wilks will have a big part to play. The returning defensive backs coach comes with high respect and proven productivity attached to his pedigree and players have been glowing in their praise regarding his overall impact during early offseason workouts.
Wilks is one of many established coaches with legitimate NFL experience appointed by the Panthers this offseason with a view to helping Rhule during a critical third season under his leadership.
Much will depend on whether the front seven generates enough pressure without Haason Reddick. But it would be a major disappointment if the secondary didn’t become an area of strength as the campaign goes on.
It has to be a collective effort. Even though Horn, Chinn, and Jackson will be relied upon heavily from start to finish against some elite passing attacks on the schedule.
Wilks will work his magic with the rest. And hopefully, that can be enough for the Panthers’ secondary to become among the league’s most prolific when it’s all said and done.