Is Captain ready to take charge for the Carolina Panthers?

This off-season we've discussed at length the role Cam Newton will play for the Carolina Panthers, while also looking at Jonathan Stewart being on the cusp of NFL elite, and he underrated nature of DBs Chris Gamble and Sherrod Martin. However, there could be a player with as much, or more pressure on him than a number of Carolina Panthers and that's CB Captain Munnerlyn.

At one time Munnerlyn was seen as a disposable player; a 2009 seventh round pick who was valued more for his novel name than anything thought he could contribute at the NFL level, most had Captain pegged as a cap casualty- but a tenacious work ethic, coupled with above average tackling skills made him stick as part of the 53 man roster. Now, Munnerlyn has become a fan favorite, a player whose 5'9" listing is extremely generous, but like Steve Smith he plays far bigger than is measurables show.

Now, Captain Munnerlyn is on the cusp of becoming an NFL starter. With veteran Richard Marshall almost certainly gone via free agency the starting position could be Munnerlyn's to lose. We'll look at his chances...

After the jump...

As a rookie he showed an innate ability at the nickel spot, lining up against 3rd WRs and stopping them quickly, while also being valuable in run support. He was a player who would and could do everything asked of him at the position. Last season he added another string to his bow showing a ball hawking ability we didn't see in the beginning of his career; finishing with three interceptions and twelve passes defended it appeared that Munnerlyn was ready to break out.

You may be surprised how good Captain Munnerlyn was in 2010, like most of out players who turned in surprisingly good performances I sure was.The following statistics are courtesy of Football Outsiders: 

- Pass yards allowed per play: 7.9 (36th in the NFL)

- Pass play stop rate: 40% (49th in the NFL)

- Run yards allowed per play: 6.4 (42nd in the NFL)

- Run play stop rate: 22% (84th in the NFL)

- Targeted: 13.5% (59th in the NFL)

- Average YAC allowed: 1.8 yards (3rd in the NFL)

- Pass success rate against: 56% (22nd in the NFL)

- Pass yards allowed per reception: 6.7 (3rd in the NFL)

Average ranking: 37.25


It's this average ranking, 37.25, which is really remarkable. Remember, Munnerlyn was the 3rd CB for the Carolina Panthers. This means that logically he should fall somewhere between 64 and 96, however, what we see is that Munnerlyn played far better than his role on the Panthers dictated, and if this ranking holds true we could well have one of the best #2 corners in the NFL without even knowing.

What we've seen out of the Carolina Panthers' front office under Marty Hurney is a recent unwillingness to spend major assets on the CB position. The only time the Carolina Panthers spent big money on a free agent CB was Ken Lucas, and he never lived up to his contract. Thus, it's not outside the realm of possibility to imagine an unwillingness on the Panthers' part to spend big money on someone like Jonathan Joseph, instead electing to roll the dice with Munnerlyn. What these statistics show is that should Munnerlyn continue his 2010 caliber of play, we have nothing to worry about.

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