Back in a nickel role for the first time since 2010, Munnerlyn is shining again– but he's not happy with the change. (Photo by Matt Sullivan/Getty Images)
Sean McDermott decided to quickly usher in the Josh Norman era with the 2012 fifth round pick now starting across from Chris Gamble. This gives the Panthers size at their CB spots they've lacked for years, and if there's one thing we've learned from the Rivera-led Panthers it's that they crave size. The fallout from the move was Captain Munnerlyn, who was bumped from the starting role, moving to a roving role where on occasion he plays on the outside, but more often it's in the nickel role where he's seeing reps. This change has yielded immediate results for Carolina, as Munnerlyn is better suited in a role where he can attack receivers, and deliver heavy hits without needing to hang on a receiver's hips deep down-field. However, in a story run by Joe Person yesterday, Munnerlyn isn't exactly happy in his new role.
"It's hard to say I'm good with it. But it's a part of football," Munnerlyn said Monday. "I know they need me on special teams. We don't have a gunner that can run down the field and go out there and make a lot of plays. I'm rotating at corner, which I really don't like. But I've got to do it."
It's more about confidence in his abilities than a denigration of his teammates, which Munnerlyn was quick to point out.
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"I want to be on the field. I feel like I can help my team win. I feel like me being out there every play, I give my team a better chance to win because I'm going to compete every play and I'm going to give it my all," he said. "Not saying (Norman) is not. I'm just saying I know what I can do."
It's easier for fans to see the whole picture, but there is a degree of Captain losing he forest for the trees in this scenario. He's in his contract year, and needs to make an impact with as much visibility as possible, but in the role he's currently playing he could be set up for a decade-plus career with the Panthers by staying in his lane, and making the big plays he has been thus far.
NFL players want as many reps as possible, but this notion of 'starting corner' vs. Nickel corner will dissolve more and more as teams utilize more receivers. Munnerlyn may be small in stature, but he always plays bigger than he is, and has no problem delivering hits to larger ball carriers. The allure of being 1st on the depth chart is there, but right now he is in a position to succeed, and that's something all NFL players should cherish.