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Panthers 2021 season opener countdown: 55 days to go

We’re counting down the days until the Panthers kick off the 2021 season.

Carolina Panthers v Arizona Cardinals Photo by Ralph Freso/Getty Images

We’re only 55 days away from the start of the Panthers’ 2021 season, so that means today’s countdown piece is dedicated to No. 55 on the Panthers’ roster — linebacker/defensive end Christian Miller.

Talk about an enigma.

The Panthers selected Miller in the fourth round of the 2019 draft (No. 115 overall) and he saw limited action during his rookie campaign. In seven games he played 91 defensive snaps and 15 special teams snaps. He flashed some tantalizing potential in a Week 3 road victory over the Arizona Cardinals when he recorded two sacks in 24 defensive snaps. He played 19 snaps the following week but then suffered an ankle injury in Week 5, right when it looked like he was about to carve out a decent reserve role. He only played two more games the rest of the year and a rookie season that started with promise ultimately concluded with a whimper.

Miller then elected to opt out of the 2020 season. He said this course of action was ultimately the “right and safest decision for me and my family”. Football players are still human beings and we’ve all had to make difficult choices during the pandemic. The good news is Christian is back with the team at this point.

I have no idea what 2021 holds for him. He was drafted and coached by the Marty Hurney-Ron Rivera regime and has no real ties to the team’s current decision makers. He’s been away from football for a year and we just don’t know what the implications of this layoff will be. Perhaps Miller comes back in 2021 fully healthy, in great shape, and makes a leap from his rookie season. Or maybe the time away from the game will put him a step or two behind other players on the roster.

He will face stiff competition. The Panthers have added both depth and quality on the edges and at linebacker since his 2019 rookie season. ESPN’s depth chart currently lists Miller as a third-string defensive end. Ourlads depth chart lists him as Carolina’s third-string strong side linebacker.

Carolina has every reason to help Miller succeed. His rookie contract is team friendly with a cap hit of just $1 million this year, $1 million in 2022, and $1.1 million in 2023. Even if he maxes out as a capable rotational player, that’s money well spent.

I wouldn’t be surprised if he lands on the 53-man roster and makes some limited contributions this year. That said, I also wouldn’t be shocked if he gets waived during roster cuts. It will be more than interesting to see how the enigma’s season plays out.

Poll

What will Christian Miller’s role be?

This poll is closed

  • 1%
    Starter
    (4 votes)
  • 52%
    Rotational player (10-20 snaps per game)
    (161 votes)
  • 33%
    Depth/special teams (less than 10 snaps per game)
    (102 votes)
  • 3%
    Practice squad
    (10 votes)
  • 10%
    Gets waived
    (32 votes)
309 votes total Vote Now