What has been happening the past two weeks?!
For the past two or three seasons the Panthers have experienced an amazingly large number of injuries to depth and starters a like. It seemed like every practice and game a player expected to contribute went down with a major injury which resulted in two years in a row of a record number of players sitting on IR. Everyone from Jon Beason to Chris Gamble, even Ryan Kalil and Ron Edwards(Who?! He never played for us!) went down and went down hard for a Panther team trying to fight for contention. As a result of such injury plagued seasons Ron Rivera has made an increased emphasis on staying healthy this training camp, and with great results. Injuries are a part of the game, and as of now the Panthers haven't experienced almost any major injuries that may cause us a game.
Amazingly the same CAN'T be said about most of the other teams in the NFL who have been experiencing injury after injury, especially in just the past week. Left and right, starter after starter, NFL rosters are falling apart and it may actually help the Panthers significantly. Nearly every team we play in the first half of the season has recently suffered a major injury resulting in a key starter being absent from our ensuing game, possibly helping the Panthers get off to the quick start we desperately need.
Let us review who the Panthers no longer have to game plan for...
Week 1 - Seattle Seahawks
Percy Harvin - The 5th highest paid receiver in the game that was acquired through a major trade won't be playing football anytime soon after hip surgery.
Bruce Irving - Not an injury, but a suspension, it still will make a difference that last years 1st rounder won't be on the field with both Michael Bennett and Chris Clemons dealing with nagging injuries.
Considering the weakness of our secondary and offensive line, having these two out will definitely effect the was Seattle plays.
Week 2 - Buffalo Bills
(I'm attending this game too)
EJ Emanuel & Kevin Kolb - With the top 2 QB's for Buffalo sidelined with knee issues and a career threatening concussion, there is a fair chance the Panthers could face either 6th round rookie Jeff Toul or Matt Leinhart, who was signed just yesterday from his couch.
Stephon Gilmore - Two weeks in a row the Panthers play a team without their 1st round pick from last season. It was just reported this morning that Gilmore has a broken hand and may miss up to 8 weeks.
Week 3 - New York Giants
David Bass - The Giant's starting center sprained his knee in Sunday's preseason game against the Indianapolis Colts and will be out three to six weeks.
David Diehl - who was the starting right tackle before Baas' injury and was going to be the starting left guard after it, underwent thumb surgery Wednesday and is out for six weeks.
Stevie Brown - The surprise starting free safety (Who? The guy who picked off Cam in the end zone last season...) just suffered a torn ACL and will miss the entire season.
JPP - The super freak defensive end underwent back surgery in June and was just taken off PUP just this morning. While he probably will be on the field by week 3, JPP has not practiced a snap, will not play in the 4th preseason game, and has not said either way if he plans to play in week 1. JPP is one of the most explosive ends in the league, but he certainly won't be 100% himself by week 3.
Hopefully we will be able to get after Eli Manning a lot more effectively with a shuffled O-line, plus without the starting free safety and a rusty pass rush it will be sliiiightly easier to match the points Eli will put up against us.
Week 5 (after the bye) - Arizona Cardinals
Rashard Mendenhall - Mendenhall already hasn't been an effective back in the NFL and that is why the former 1st round pick finds himself on a new team this season. To make matters worse, he has continued to deal with tendinitis in his right knee (surgically operated on 2 seasons ago) and has been missing a fair amount of practice time. While not considered a serious injury, Saturday night Rashard injured his knee in the 1st quarter and did not return.
Jonathan Cooper - The 7th overall draft pick and physically gifted guard out of Carolina just suffered a broken ankle and will miss the season. Cooper was always a dream player who could have fallen in draft and I believe everyone would have been equally happy with Cooper as we are with Star. The Cardinal's line is horrible and Cooper was the biggest off season upgrade, now Star has a much easier path to Carson Palmer.
Week 6 - Minnesota Vikings
Kevin Williams - I watched it happen just last night with my own eyes and still couldn't believe it, the following actually gave me a big push into writing this little article. On a busted run play by the 49ers, Kevin Williams slowly jogged to the right with his eyes on a running back being swarmed 5 yards deep by Vikings. In an instant back-up lineman Joe Looney inexplicably dove at William's knee. It was a cheap and dirty block in my opinion and William's didn't see it coming, so his knee went the only way it could...backwards. He won't be on the field week 6. This will also push Shariff Floyd onto the field faster even though he too is nursing his knee back from a "little procedure" he had this preseason.
Ten major injury situations in the first 5 games, and the Panthers are (as of now) without any major injury. The future looks bright thanks maybe too a little fate, the Panthers are getting help to start out strong before we start playing the incredibly strong NFC south. If we can stay health and our defense looks anything like it did against Baltimore, we could be in line for an exciting season.
Here's rooting for a 5 - 0 start!
**UPDATE - Saints OLB Will Smith out for season with knee injury! A bad defense continues to get worse with their top 2 OLB gone for the season.**