For the first time in his NFL career, rookie safety/linebacker Jeremy Chinn missed a game due to a knee injury last week and is on track to return this week vs Tampa Bay.
During his absence, Jermaine Carter Jr. stepped up big last week and made a couple of nice plays finishing the day with four tackles in just 30 defensive snaps. His season-high in defensive snaps prior to week nine was six which happened in week four vs Arizona and week seven vs New Orleans.
Earlier this week, the Panthers placed backup MIKE linebacker Adarius Taylor on the injured reserve list with a groin injury and with him out of the lineup, it paves way for more opportunities for Carter Jr., who has the ability to play all three linebacker spots. Head coach Matt Rhule talked about his performance vs Kansas City and what his role looks like moving forward.
"I thought Jermaine was a real bright spot last week, played great as usual on special teams, played well as the nickel MIKE and as the WILL and SAM and all the other different things we asked him to do. I thought he played well. Now, we're getting [Jeremy] Chinn back and that adds to the arsenal of guys. We lost AG [Adarius Taylor] who is a tremendous special teams player for us and plays really well at linebacker. I think Jermaine's role will continue to ascend as he continues to play well."
Panthers' defensive coordinator Phil Snow echoed a similar sentiment and likes how Carter Jr. and the rest of the linebackers have played over the last month or so.
"Jermaine can play all three spots. He plays some SAM backer to the field, he plays MIKE and WILL. He's done a good job learning the system," Snow said. "The linebacker crew I think has gotten better every week. If you watch them, they haven't missed a lot of tackles recently and they're playing better. We missed [Jeremy] Chinn a little last week but we'll get him back this week. They've just steadily improved, so I'm happy with that group."
The team also protected practice squad linebackers Clay Johnston and Chris Orr as a security blanket and we could see one of those guys be elevated to the active roster while Adarius Taylor is out.
Carter Jr. was someone who showed flashes of being a reliable defender last year as he totaled 31 tackles in 261 defensive snaps. The more game reps he gets, the better he will become. I wouldn't be surprised that if at some point, Carter Jr. overtakes Taylor as the backup MIKE and maybe even becomes a starter down the road. He, like many others, have a lot to work on before being thrusted into a starting role but things are certainly trending in the right direction for Carter Jr. He's getting his opportunity to prove to the coaching staff what he can do - now he just has to go out there and leave it all out on the field.
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