Xavier Woods' underrated importance to Carolina Panthers acknowledged

The veteran safety has a big part to play in 2024.
Xavier Woods
Xavier Woods / Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

After another offseason with widespread changes to the playing personnel, the Carolina Panthers have fewer constants than ever. Nobody expected anything less after a two-win campaign that cemented their status at rock bottom. But if head coach Dave Canales wants to raise this franchise from the proverbial ashes, he needs his established stars to set the tone.

The likes of Derrick Brown, Bryce Young, Jadeveon Clowney, and Diontae Johnson are in the spotlight more than most. However, the underrated importance of veteran safety Xavier Woods received some deserved recognition from an NFL analyst heading into the new season.

Xavier Woods named Carolina Panthers' best-kept secret

After emerging as one of the few bright spots in Carolina last season, Woods was named as the Panthers' best-kept secret by Matt Holder from The Bleacher Report. The analyst believes that if the team had produced more overall, the former sixth-round selection would be getting far more plaudits as a result of his outstanding efforts.

"Carolina hasn't done a lot of winning since [Xavier] Woods got there two years ago, which is probably part of the reason why he's under the radar. But the safety is a versatile player who can line up in the box and protect the back end of the defense. He's also good against the run and pass, logging nine interceptions and PBUs combined with four tackles for loss in addition to earning an 81.7 coverage grade and 73.7 run defense grade from Pro Football Focus last season."

Matt Holder, Bleacher Report

Woods came into the Panthers with some extra momentum and managed to use it effectively. He was all but written off following a poor final campaign with the Dallas Cowboys. He managed to bounce back finely during his one campaign on the Minnesota Vikings' backend. This was enough for Carolina to make its move and they've benefitted from it since.

The defensive back will have a new safety partner next season after the Panthers released Vonn Bell. Jordan Fuller looks set to fill the void. He's got the skill set that compliments what Woods brings to the table. The veteran also has a previous working relationship with Ejiro Evero, which should keep complications to a minimum during his pivotal transition.

There is plenty of motivation for Woods to maintain his high-performance levels in 2024.

This is the last year of his deal, counting $7.75 million against the salary cap. With a new regime in place, everyone is auditioning for long-term involvement. Anything less than similar consistency and leadership would leave Woods' future beyond the upcoming campaign hanging in the balance.

That's for the future. For now, hopes are high for Woods.

The Panthers lost some outstanding defensive talent this offseason. While this was a necessary evil as Dan Morgan looked to provide Young with a fighting chance, it might come at the expense of Evero's unit unless everyone is at optimum performance levels throughout the campaign.

Having a presence like Woods as a security blanket in the secondary is comforting. But all it'll take is one or two injuries to see this defense potentially become exposed.

It's a big gamble from Morgan. Woods will have a huge say in whether it pays off or not.