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What’s next for the Panthers after Ross Cockrell’s season ending injury?

The Panthers lost their free agent signee to a broken leg, likely for the season. Where do they go now?

NFL: New York Giants at Washington Redskins Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

Welp. That happened.

The Panthers signed Ross Cockrell to a two year deal following the debacle with free agent Bashaud Breeland, after Breeland failed his physical due to a laceration suffered in his foot during the offseason. Cockrell was brought in effectively as a plan B. Cockrell’s always been a zone heavy corner, and in the Panthers zone heavy scheme he looked like a perfect fit, even garnering praise every day from defensive coordinator Eric Washington in regards to the “hustle” he wants to see from his corners.

Well, that all came to a screeching halt after Cockrell collided with Torrey Smith, shattering both the bones in his lower leg. Now, the plan for him is to go to IR after his surgery is complete, most likely shelving him until next season. Cockrell was easily in the running to be the Panthers second corner opposite James Bradberry. So now the question arises, where do they go from here?

Current roster

So Cockrell was competing with incumbent Kevon Seymour, who managed to take snaps from the departed and since arrested Daryl Worley. Of all the CBs on the roster, Seymour has the most experience at outside corner (unless you want to include Captain Munnerlyn’s time there back during the McDermott days of 2013). Seymour likely has the inside track here, however the team expressed interest in using corners based on the gameplan and matchups, which we saw last year as Seymour and Worley traded snaps outside. 2nd round pick Donte Jackson figures to factor in here as well, bringing top level speed and a certain scrappy play style that Seymour simply doesn’t have. So these two should be fighting for time all season.

In addition, Cockrell’s injury helps open the door for others to make the roster when it may have been tough for them before. We have yet to see what 2017 late round pick Corn Elder brings to the table as he works his way back from injury, while Cole Luke filled in nicely during the 2017 preseason and did enough for the Panthers to bring him back for a second look. Another person to watch here is Lorenzo Doss, who has been making plays since the rookie minicamp. There are definitely some guys to watch here, but the biggest issue is finding a guy to use in zone heavy gameplans like they planned with Cockrell.

Potential answers off the roster?

While it seems the bridge would be burned with Breeland after the Panthers rescinded their offer, he is still a free agent. He got a visit with the Chiefs, but didn’t like the offer they gave him. This is certainly an outside shot, but crazier things have happened. There’s also guys still floating around in free agency, such as Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and Delvin Breaux.

It is tough to say whether the Panthers would make a play on a free agent or make a trade, but they clearly expected to have a proven veteran to pair with Bradberry. The injury bug bit this team early, but not all is lost. They’ve got some time to figure things out here.

What are your thoughts? Do you think the current roster is sufficient? Who would you bring in if you were Marty Hurney?