The Carolina Panthers have officially shaved their roster down to 53 players ahead of yesterday’s 4pm deadline. In doing so, they released a number of NFL hopefuls and tenured players that have spent a few years around the league.
With a few surprise moves like the waiving of CB Keith Taylor Jr and veteran LB Deion Jones, the Carolina decision makers will surely be making more roster moves before Week 1 in Atlanta.
Here are 3 positions that the Carolina Panthers should target on the Waiver Wire:
- Inside Linebacker
Aside from releasing veteran Deion Jones, the move that shocked most Panthers fans was waiving second year LB Brandon Smith who many thought would excel in the transition to a 3-4 defense. Both Jones and Smith seem to have been beat out by journeyman newcomer Kamu Grugier-Hill and second year undrafted free agent Chandler Wooten. Grugier-Hill was arguably the most impressive defensive player throughout the preseason, and already has the confidence of the locker room.
The problem this presents is, Carolina is counting on unknowns. Wooten was picked up in Week 7 last year and only registered 1 tackle in his 9 games of action. That tackle came on Special Teams as he did not play any defensive snap. Grugier-Hill has primarily been a Special Teams ace throughout his 8 year career. He definitely has the pedigree to succeed in Carolina, but will it be enough?
Note: Thinning out the LB room may be an attempt to keep Jeremy Chinn on the field in his new role. If that is the case, I have no issue with the strategy.
Both Carolina Panthers starting Cornerbacks are returning from season ending injuries in their 2022 campaigns. If this wasn’t a usual thing, then fans may not worry much about much, but at this point in their careers it is fair to label both players as “injury-prone”. Third year CB1 Jaycee Horn has only been active for 16 of a possible 34 games due to injury. And, veteran Donte Jackson has missed an average of 4.5 games per season since his rookie year.
The fall off in talent after the top 2 guys on the depth chart is almost scary. That’s why Carolina brought in former LA Rams CB Troy Hill before releasing Keith Taylor Jr. They need to assure themselves that they do not have a repeat of last years Bucs game that eliminated them from playoff contention. Furthermore, current 2nd-String CB and former top-10 pick CJ Henderson made the the final 53 much to the chagrin of many fans. His play through 2 seasons in Carolina has been shaky at best. Despite only starting in 15 of a possible 27 games with the Panthers, Henderson has allowed 916 yards throw the air, 7 touchdowns, and a Passer Rating of 112.5.
With the apparent injury history to the starters and the inferred unreliableness of the backups, Carolina should explore young intriguing talent at this position on the Waiver Wire.
Carolina signed veteran Edge Rusher Justin Houston just ahead of this years preseason. That move was made to balance out the pass rush pressure, so now opposing teams can’t double-team Brian Burns at will without consequence. Although Houston will provide a needed punch when on the field, he only played 44% of the available defensive snaps last year with the Baltimore Ravens. That means majority of the snaps will most likely be taken by guys Houston was brought in to replace unfortunately.
The remaining 56% will be taken by Marquis Haynes, Yetur Gross-Matos, and rookie DJ Johnson. Of the 3, Haynes has been the only one that has shown the ability to get to the QB. Gross-Matos is a surprise holdover from cut day, and only has 8.5 sacks through 43 games in his career. Johnson is an unknown, and he did not flash much in the preseason.
The Panthers would be smart to bring in a Edge Rusher that has made plays in a 3-4.