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Panthers Still Need to Address Their Hole at Safety

The Carolina Panthers have done a commendable job at shoring up positional needs this offseason, but one hole remains.

The Panthers desperately still need to fill a hole at the safety position to shore up their defense.

With Jeremy Chinn at one side, the other safety position is currently housed by Justin Burris, Sam Franklin, and Kenny Robinson. None of those guys are proven starters, and it would benefit Carolina to get someone else on board.

There are still some guys in free agency with starting prowess, including Malik Hooker and Bobby McCain. Beyond that, safeties like Tre Boston, Adrian Colbert, Bradley McDougald, and Kenny Vaccaro are also still available.

For intents and purposes of this article, the Panthers need to target McCain or Hooker.

The Miami Dolphins announced earlier this week that McCain, a starter and a team captain in Miami, would be released.

The 5-foot-11, 192-pound safety is just 27 and was a fifth-round draft choice by the Dolphins back in 2015. He’s played in 87 career games and has 254 tackles (200 solo) and seven interceptions to go with a forced fumble and 4.0 sacks.

The release of McCain was likely a cap move after he signed a four-year $27 million extension in 2018.

McCain is the perfect type of player that the Panthers need in Phil Snow’s 3-3-5 defensive looks.

When you’re running a 3-3-5, you have three pass rushers (which Carolina has), three linebackers to focus on a combination of stopping the run, providing coverage or getting after the quarterback (which Carolina has), and five defensive backs to cover the entire field.

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The defensive backfield can be split into zone or man coverage, but it oftentimes has two cornerbacks playing on each outer side with a slot corner roaming the flat on one side. One safety kind of roams or rushes the passer, which would be Chinn’s role. The other safety is typically responsible for playing over the top and not letting anyone beat them deep while also being able to run sideline to sideline. That’s McCain.

According to a Miami Herald article, McCain had the NFL’s second-best passer rating against opposing quarterbacks reeling in a rating of 27.5 when throwing against him last season.

The article said only five of 10 passes were completed in McCain’s coverage area all year for 56 yards with no touchdowns. He also had an interception.

McCain’s downfall, though, comes in the run defense department, but that’s where Chinn and the linebackers pick up the slack.

While McCain would be an ideal signing, Hooker could fit in nicely, as well.

The 6-foot-1, 214-pound 25-year-old safety has seven interceptions in 36 career games after being drafted 15th overall by the Colts back in the 2017 NFL Draft.

Hooker has been visiting with plenty of teams, including the Dolphins and the Cowboys since the Colts decided not to pick up his option and make him a free agent. He is, however, coming off an Achilles injury that sidelined him for all but two games last season.

Hooker excels best in roaming the field and covering deep throws, which would be beneficial in Carolina’s scheme playing opposite of Chinn.

If the Panthers are able to add a starting safety in free agency, it would go a long way to shoring up the defense and give Carolina a chance to compete for a shot at the playoffs this coming season.