CHARLOTTE,NC- AUGUST 21: Captain Munnerlyn #41 of the Carolina Panthers tries the push off Lance Laury #56 of the New York Jets during a preseason game against at Bank of America Stadium on August 21 2010 in Charlotte North Carolina. (Photo by Mary Ann Chastain/Getty Images)
Panther fans hold no one in higher regard than future Panthers Hall of Honor inductee Steve Smith, who is known for being tough and feisty on the field. So when Panthers HC Ron Rivera says the Panthers #2 CB is the defense's version of Smith we should take heed:
The Panthers love Munnerlyn’s feisty attitude. Despite his size, he’s extremely physical and Rivera refers to him as the "Steve Smith of our defense."
You mean little and mean, coach?
"Yes," said Rivera.
That feistiness has been on full display this training camp. Though Munnerlyn has plenty of challengers for his starting spot none appear ready to jump ahead of the 4th year player. Though only 5'8" 190 lbs Munnerlyn is the epitome of his college mascot the 'gamecock', small but strong and resilient.
So does Munnerlyn take offense to all the naysayers predicting he ends up playing the nickel this year? Not hardly:
"There’s a lot of people out there who are like, ‘We need another corner; Captain is nothing but a nickel corner,’" Munnerlyn said. "But my teammates and coaches know I’m going to fight out there every day for my team and go out and make plays. So when people say we need another corner I just let it fly by and go out and work my tail off."
From what I saw the first weekend of TC he enters camp very fit, very confident and plays with a bit of a chip on his shoulder. I can't really blame him, there is nothing he can do about being 5'8". Yet isn't Steve Smith only 5'9"? Think about this for a moment, what if this is the year Munnerlyn puts it all together and becomes a solid outside corner worthy of being called the 'defensive Steve Smith'? Would that silent the naysayers? Probably not but he is going to get his chance being opposite Chris Gamble. Just moving up to the middle of the pack statistically speaking might be enough if the rest fo the defense improves as expected.
So if this is true what in world happens in practice when these two face off? I'm thinking about planets colliding! Oh we shall discuss, after the jump...
Here's Munnerlyn describing practicing against Smith:
"They say we’re just alike, that we both have little man’s syndrome," Munnerlyn said with a laugh. "When he catches a pass on me, I’m mad. I’m like, ‘No way.’ Because I know he’s going to spin the ball after he catches it. When he does that I want to kick it to the other side of the field."
Now that certainly sounds like Smith! Munnerlyn certainly has little man's syndrome.
With both Josh Norman and Brandon Hogan sitting out due to injuries it looks like the only guys able to give Munnerlyn a run at the moment is Darius Butler and FA pick up Nate Ness, who James discussed just earlier today. Even if these guys look good I wouldn;t count Munnerlyn out just yet. Expect to see a good amount o snaps for Captain in the preseason as the Panthers look for improvement in his man coverage ability. We may need to roll a safety over top of him in the red zone but if the Panthers play a lot of bump and run that might maximize Munnerlyn's strengths.
One thing you cannot question though is that Munnerlyn fits the type of player Ron Rivera seeks:
“He has a little attitude,” Rivera said. “But he’s got the right kind of temperament. ... The thing I like about him is he shows up every day to work. He doesn’t take plays off. You may get nicked here or there, but the thing that’s interesting to me is he bounces back and just keeps going.”
So do you think Munnerlyn keeps his starting role?