Carolina Panthers position review: Cornerback

Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

The secondary got a cute nickname in 2013, but they weren't very good.

"The Legion of Whom" was the worst nickname in all of football in 2013. It was supposed to be a cute Gruden-ism that described the Panthers secondary as a rag-tag, unknown group of scrappy playmakers, but this was a unit that never earned a nickname.

Nicknames are reserved for the very best and very worst of players. A sign of endearment for those we love, a way to ease the pain for those who continue to start -- badly. Carolina's group of cornerbacks were never great, sometimes terrible and overall they were middling. There's no question they were the weak link on defense, so let's break down the individuals.

Captain Munnerlyn

992 defensive snaps (98 percent of total snaps)

I have a tendency to not put my tools away in an organized fashion after using them. I'd like to think everything has its place in other areas of my life, but normally when I finish some kind of home improvement I run off to my wife for praise instead of putting everything back where it belongs.

Then a time comes when I need to hang a picture and have no clue where the hammer is. Stupidly I rummage through the tool box, emerging with a wrench -- convinced I can hammer in the nail without the aid of the correct tool.

Soon I get angry at the wrench after it bends a nail. Captain Munnerlyn is this wrench.

Years of being a misused tool created deep-seated resentment among fans. Munnerlyn will never be a typical outside cornerback, but he doesn't need to be. There's a role for multi-use players who can line up in the slot and do their job well. This is where he thrived in 2013, this is where he won. As a typical starter he was a mixed bag in 2013, but when Melvin White moved outside he took a step forward. It was welcome to see.

Career-highs across the board were reward for a season well done. He finished with 73 tackles, 3.0 sacks, one forced fumble and two interceptions -- both of which were returned for touchdowns.

In its totality this was a very good season. It was almost great, and would have been if Munnerlyn had been used in his correct position from Week 1.

Grade: B+


Melvin White

697 defensive snaps (69 percent of total snaps)

Perspective is the key in looking at White, because any production you get out of an undrafted free agent is good.

Let's get the big one out of the way first: Pass coverage. White was, for lack of a better term, terrible. Veterans used move after move on him, and he bit on all of them (as rookies tend to do). From the beginning of a route it was clear if White would be lost because he rarely took the right step to properly cover his man.

This tends to happen to the best rookies, heck White graded out almost on par with first round pick Dee Milliner of the New York Jets -- so while he has a lot to learn at the NFL level, all is not lost. Pair that with stout and reliable run stopping and there's something here.

White may never be full time starting material, but he's a talent.

Grade: C


Drayton Florence

600 defensive snaps (59 percent of total snaps)

Dave Gettleman's one-year experiment worked. Florence is too often remembered for blowing the big one, struggling against the 49ers -- but all in all he had a fairly successful season.

If you look at box scores in isolation there isn't much impressive, but opposing quarterbacks averaged a passer rating of 66.6 against him in 2013, according to Pro Football Focus. However, it's unclear how much is left in the tank though, a Florence got worse as the season went on -- perhaps indicating that he's simply getting too old.

Another one-year deal may be on the cards, even if it means scaling back his reps.

Grade: B-


Josh Thomas

271 defensive snaps (27 percent of total snaps)

It was interesting to see Melvin White get the lion's share of snaps, because Josh Thomas was largely better for much of the season -- though it's important to note he worked against far less accomplished receivers.

Let's be honest here: He's probably on the way out. Far too much was made of his lack of discipline against San Francisco, no one outburst will get a guy cut like that, but being a sub par cornerback will.

Grade: C


Josh Norman

103 defensive snaps (10 percent of total snaps)

Norman is firmly entrenched in the dog house. You don't need to like it, but it is what it is. Something has happened along his journey that has prompted the team to lose faith.

He's a player who has all the physical tools, but was incredibly cocky out of school. That could be it, or he might be struggling to adapt to new coaching. Either way, it's done. When he was on the field he was bad this year, no other way to say it.

Grade: D


D.J. Moore

58 defensive snaps (6 percent of total snaps)

Grading a player who barely had one game's worth of stats isn't appropriate. It's almost assured he wont be back, and that's a shame for a player who had promise.

Grade: N/A


James Dockey

17 defensive snaps (2 percent of total snaps)

Same deal here. Not enough to form the tiniest opinion.

Grade: N/A

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