clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

Panthers 2018 season review: Safeties

New, comments

The Panthers suffered from inconsistency at safety in 2018. Will they be able to reverse their fortunes in 2019 and beyond?

NFL: Baltimore Ravens at Carolina Panthers Jeremy Brevard-USA TODAY Sports

The Panthers safety position has been lackluster for several years now, however they did make plays due to high level front seven play. In 2018, that wasn’t the case, and the safety position got exposed as a huge weakness on this defense. There’s improvements to be made, for sure, but there’s considerable doubt that this position will get addressed during the 2019 offseason. Let’s examine that.

The return

The Panthers signed Eric Reid to a three-year, $22 million contract after he came in during the 2018 regular season. At this juncture Reid is locked in as the starting strong safety, and possesses the tools to play as a big nickel/situational linebacker up by the line of scrimmage. Now that the Panthers have brought him in with a full offseason to work him into the game plan, I think they can rely on him as the starter. Behind that, things get a bit more murky.

The doubt

Da’Norris Searcy is currently the de facto starting free safety for the Panthers, which is not ideal considering his tendency to concuss himself when playing football. Even if he does walk into the season healthy, Searcy has never been an actual free safety option in the NFL. He’s at best a decent strong safety, a position currently filled by Eric Reid. But the team thought he could be the guy at free safety last year, so at the moment he’s penciled in.

Beyond that, Rashaan Gaulden returns after his rookie play didn’t exactly give cause for optimism in limited action. Gaulden was drafted as an all around defensive back, but it seems like he’s a better fit as a nickel/box safety. Again, not really an option for free safety based on his athleticism.

After those two, Mike Adams and Colin Jones hit free agency, meaning there’s a ton of room for new additions. Adams is 74.75 years old and Jones is a career special teamer, so even if they do return, they cannot be relied on for anything substantial.

What now?

I am still going to personally bang the table for the Panthers to address the safety position in the draft or in free agency. I think a natural free safety will do wonders for turning this defense around in 2019. But even if we ignore that, this team is dreadfully thin at safety. Only Gaulden and Reid are under contract beyond 2019. This team has ignored the safety position and has fixed it about as well as one could fix a flat tire with duct tape. It’s time to make this change. Otherwise, this secondary could again end the season on its knees.