Five Guys the Panthers Can't Afford to Lose to Injury in 2020

Schuyler Callihan

5. LB Shaq Thompson

The Panthers' linebacker unit may be the strongest unit on the defensive side when you are talking about its starters. As far as depth is concerned, it's not in great shape. With Luke Kuechly riding off into retirement, Shaq Thompson is now the glue that holds this defense together. Although I have him at No. 5, his loss could take one of the biggest tolls on the defense. However, having guys like Tahir Whitehead and Brian Burns in the fold could prevent the defense from virtually falling apart. 

4. CB Donte Jackson

Carolina put an emphasis on adding to its secondary this offseason by drafting Jeremy Chinn, Kenny Robinson, and Troy Pride Jr. and signing Juston Burris and Eli Apple in free agency. With that said, there is very little to no experience from the aforementioned names. Apple has struggled throughout his first handful of years in the NFL and if Jackson is unable to go, it could be a little concerning moving Apple up as the No. 1 corner. Jackson is rapidly becoming one of the better young corners in the game. Yes, he still has a little ways to go still, but he's definitely on the right track and holds tremendous value to the Panthers defense.

3. DL Kawann Short

Last year, the Panthers ranked 28th in rushing defense and much of that was due to the absence of Kawann Short. He is a gap filler and clogs up running lanes with consistency. Should Short go down, it leaves rookie Derrick Brown in a tough position. The defensive line is already a very young and thin group and losing its veteran leader could be a huge blow to that side of the ball.

2. QB Teddy Bridgewater

I know what you're thinking....Teddy at No. 2? Yes, 100%. Although Bridgewater still has a lot to prove and may not be the most talented player on the roster, it goes beyond that. This is more based on what is behind Bridgewater, which isn't much in terms of experience. Will Grier is still developing and P.J. Walker had been cut multiple times in his last stint in the NFL. If Bridgewater goes down, it could change the entire dynamic of the offense and be a similar situation to what we saw last year when Newton went down.

1. RB Christian McCaffrey

The clear and most obvious answer is Christian McCaffrey. The entire Panthers offense ran through him in 2019 and will likely have a similar look in 2020. McCaffrey has quickly earned the title of the best running back in the NFL and is certainly one of the most dynamic players in the league. There is no replacing him. Not only is there no way to replace a talent like him, but the Panthers' backfield is pretty scarce. Mike Davis, Reggie Bonnafon, and Jordan Scarlett are all unproven backs in their own way. Losing McCaffrey to injury would be a detrimental hit to this team. 

Which players do you think the Panthers can't afford to lose to injury? Let us know your thoughts in the comment section below!

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