The Carolina Panthers have done a great job at addressing just about every position this offseason, except cornerback. Here's why that will haunt Frank Reich in 2023.
In a game with the NFC South on the line, the Carolina Panthers were decimated by Tom Brady and Mike Evans in Week 17 of 2022 due to a lack of cornerback depth.
Entering the season, it looked to be a position of strength for the team, boasting the likes of Donte Jackson and C.J. Henderson in addition to standout Jaycee Horn. Unfortunately, injuries to the aforementioned corners thrust Henderson and Keith Taylor Jr. into starting roles, in which they failed to deliver results.
Brady absolutely torched the secondary, dropping dimes and connecting with Evans for three touchdowns - including one that traveled 57.6 air yards, his longest since 2017. This effectively ended the Panthers' season and forced team owner David Tepper toward the future of the franchise.
Carolina Panthers have had an issue at CB for years
Frank Reich is an offensive-minded coach. But during his introductory press conference, he emphasized the importance of fielding a competitive and fast defense. It's all about balance.
Scott Fitterer and crew did a great job of adding talent all over the offense and defense, including No. 1 overall selection Bryce Young, who is already turning heads in minicamp. Unfortunately, the biggest misstep thus far has been a complete failure to address the cornerback position.
We know Horn is one of the best cornerbacks in the league when healthy. The problem is that former South Carolina Gamecock struggles to stay on the field.
Heading into his third season, Horn has failed to finish a full campaign and has only played 16 career games out of a possible 34. Obviously, injuries are part of the game and teams should not expect their top players to be available all the time. However, they should look at trends.
Horn is 0/2 on finishing seasons. Suffering an ankle and foot injury this early in the offseason does not bode well for him changing this narrative in Year 3 of his professional career.
Jackson is a corner who fits very well opposite Horn as the No. 2. Not unlike his teammate, the former LSU Tiger has found a stable home on the Panthers' injury report sheet.
With a torn Achilles, the Panthers will most likely be without its 2018 second-round selection for a part of 2023, although hopes remain he can get on the field for the start of Carolina's training camp. The trend here is Jackson hasn't finished a full season since his rookie year and has missed 13 contests over the last two seasons.
It's clear that the team can't rely on Taylor or Henderson to be stable options. So it makes the failure to address the team's cornerback position that much worse.
When the top two options are prone to injury and the next two are constantly giving up touchdowns, the formula equates to disaster. One that could impact the Panthers' chances of progress under Reich.
Throughout the Panthers' rich history, the team has had quite a few elite cornerbacks including Chris Gamble, Josh Norman, James Bradberry, and most recently Stephon Gilmore. But the team has failed time and time again to maintain stability at the position, oftentimes opting for a committee approach rather than paying premier players to stay.
If Reich wants his tenure with the Panthers to end up differently than all other head coaches, he needs to address the cornerback position for good.
Otherwise, it's not hard to see where problems could arise.