4 critical observations from the Panthers’ defeat at Bucs in Week 17

(Photo by Kevin Sabitus/Getty Images) Shi Smith and Chuba Hubbard
(Photo by Kevin Sabitus/Getty Images) Shi Smith and Chuba Hubbard /
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Carolina Panthers
(Nathan Ray Seebeck-USA TODAY Sports) C.J. Henderson /

Carolina Panthers lack NFL-standard CB depth

It’s hard to remember an injury that had an effect on a game as the one suffered by Jaycee Horn against the Detroit Lions. The stud cornerback suffered a freak broken wrist as a result of a collision with teammate Jeremy Chinn late in the blowout win, which left him facing surgery and ruled him out of the Carolina Panthers’ pivotal NFC South title showdown.

Horn has been arguably playing like a top-five cornerback this season and locked up any wide receiver he has come up against effectively. It’s fair to say that if the former first-round pick was active on Sunday, Mike Evans would not have gone off for 207 receiving yards and three scores.

Keith Taylor Jr. once again had a tough outing. The fifth-round pick in 2021 has already shown frailties this season when he was worked by Diontae Johnson against the Pittsburgh Steelers, which left a few concerns heading into this one.

Taylor is a Day 3 selection in his second season. He is not someone you want covering a premier wideout like Evans. However, the Panthers have a real issue with C.J. Henderson.

The trade Scott Fitterer made the bring the former No. 9 overall selection over from the Jacksonville Jaguars was penned as a move for the future. Sunday’s performance was unfortunately indicative of what we’ve seen from Henderson during his time in Carolina.

Questions have been leveled at the player since his time in college about how much love Henderson has for the game. At times it’s hard to argue against that.

His effort on Evans’ third touchdown was nothing short of pitiful. And it goes without saying the Panthers will not be exercising the fifth-year option on Henderson’s rookie deal.

It was a strange decision from Steve Wilks to give Josh Norman extremely limited involvement even with the struggles of Henderson and Taylor. There was also no real help over the top from Carolina’s safeties, which is all Tom Brady needed to expose a significant weakness.