After the most recent injury to plague the Carolina Panthers cornerback room, is it time to say the franchise has a significant problem at the position?
The bad news just never seems to stop for the Carolina Panthers these days. Not even a full day after it was reported that Bryce Young had been elevated to QB1, the fanbase had to endure yet another letdown as promising cornerback Jaycee Horn has gone down with a foot injury yet again.
While it seems likely that Horn will be ready to go by training camp, this continues a worrying trend for the Panthers. Now both starting corners on the depth chart could be out for extended periods before the 2023 season.
Injuries are rarely the fault of the player, but availability is a quality all its own and that hasn't been the case for Horn or the other half of the duo in Donte Jackson. To add onto this, complications tend to pile up and it's not going in a good direction for either player at this point.
Carolina Panthers cannot depend on their cornerback options
Just look at how Chrisitan McCaffrey went from the face of the franchise, and to some, the face of the new age running back, to being traded in just a few years due to this very reason.
Since Horn was selected at No. 8 overall in 2021, the dynamic duo has only played a total of 37 games between them. This seems like a rather large number until one considers that the majority of those were hobbled by one injury or another and Jackson tore his Achilles last season.
This sort of injury is hard enough to come back from for the average person - let alone a high-level athlete that needs their speed and quick-twitch reflexes to make a lasting impression.
Any cornerback needs that speed more than just about any other position. When that spot loses a step, it's all but over in today's NFL.
Neither player has made it a full season in the last two years and Jackson has never made it past 13 starts since his rookie campaign. Neither of these stats instills any kind of confidence.
Even when Jackson and Horn have been on the field, neither has been able to recapture that initial spark that turned everyone's heads. Something is missing, some flash that hasn't been there.
Some of that could be a lack of rhythm. But the sad fact of injuries is that they never truly heal - especially in Jackson's case - completely. There will always be a little bit of explosiveness that gets lost in the process.
The other issue here is that the Panthers have no proven depth at the position, which has been painfully evident with their top-level talent constantly hampered by injury. The team even had to go and sign Josh Norman off the street last season due to these problems.
If there is any proof that a top-heavy team won't last, just look to the Los Angeles Rams. Yes, they won the Super Bowl, but now they are one of the worst teams in the entire NFL because some of those stars left or got injured.
The proposition of C.J. Henderson being the No. 1 corner for this team should be terrifying for any Panthers fan. But at this point, can we really trust that Horn or Jackson to be available on any given Sunday?
If every time a player trots onto the field, every time they get hit, the entire fanbase holds their breath, that isn't a very comfortable place to be in.
Now, some may say it's not fair to blame the player for injuries like this. Fluke things that can happen to anyone. But once one complication becomes two, a couple of games missed become over half the season, and you start to ask these questions.
With that said, all might be fine once the season starts and the action becomes real. We may look back at these words and laugh as the Panthers ride their defense into the sunset of a playoff run.
However, that nagging feeling in the back of my mind will never truly leave until either player can prove to the fans that a full season isn't too much to ask.
It's time for the Panthers to face the facts and realize that their cornerback room has an injury problem - one that needs to be planned for as it will happen eventually. Because it isn't a matter of if anymore.