Morning After Thoughts: Depth is Catching Up to the Carolina Panthers

The Panthers are now on a three-game losing skid
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For the third straight week, the Carolina Panthers chalk up another loss in the L column, which now puts the Panthers at 3-5 on the season. Although Carolina has five losses, four of those losses have been by just one possession and the only loss by more than one score was to Tampa Bay on the road (14 points).

Are the Panthers beginning to fall apart?

I don't know that I would go as far as saying that, but they are not playing to the level we know these guys can play. The one big problem that is hurting this team right now? A lack of depth. 

Coming into the season, we knew that the offensive line, the secondary, and defensive line was going to be extremely thin due to lack of experience and it's starting to really show, especially these last two weeks. Injuries to cornerback Donte Jackson (toe), safety Juston Burris (ribs), defensive lineman Kawann Short (shoulder), offensive tackle Russell Okung (calf), and having corner Rasul Douglas on the COVID/reserve list is just too much for the Panthers to overcome. With that said, they are still hanging in games with a shot to win in the fourth quarter.

Through the first six games of the season, the Panthers' pass defense actually performed well and a lot of that had to do with Rasul Douglas and Donte Jackson being on the field at the same time. Jackson continues to fight through his turf toe injury, but almost routinely comes off to the sidelines every game because of how much it is bothering him. When Jackson can't play at full speed and Douglas is  unable to go, it leaves a depleted secondary. Corn Elder, Stanley Thomas-Oliver III, and Troy Pride Jr. are decent players, but none of those guys are ready to be thrown into a significant role on the defense, but have had to due to the circumstances. 

The defensive line has already had issues with depth as Kawann Short, Yetur Gross-Matos, and now Zach Kerr have all been battle tested with injuries. We're now seeing guys like Woodrow Hamilton, Efe Obada, and Bravvion Roy stepping into bigger roles. Again, decent players but are not guys ready for that type of role. So when you look at how bad this defense has played over the last two weeks, the first thing I attribute it to is injuries and depth. 

Things aren't going to get better anytime soon, but what this does is it gives these younger guys more in-game reps which is what they need. They'll have something to build off of and learn from in a game situation. When these starters return, the defense should have developed it's depth enough to where it's no longer a concern. If depth is still a concern at that point, then you've got yourself a major problem. 

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