The Carolina Panthers had a glaring weakness at cornerback in 2016 following the departure of All-Pro Josh Norman. By Week 5, all three of the team’s top cornerbacks on the depth chart were rookies (James Bradberry, Daryl Worley, and Zack Sanchez). Of this bunch, it was clear that the 2016 second round pick James Bradberry was their top option.
Bradberry put forth a solid rookie season and was graded as the top rookie cornerback by Pro Football Focus. The former Samford star has high expectations heading into his second season. Can he turn into a shutdown cornerback and replace the void left by Josh Norman?
Captain Munnerlyn certainly thinks so. Munnerlyn, who returned to the Panthers when he signed a four-year $21 million deal on March 11, said Bradberry “will definitely be the real deal.”
“He is big, he is physical, he knows how to cover, and he can go get the ball,” Munnerlyn said.
Panthers safety Mike Adams also praised the second year cornerback when speaking to reporters on Saturday.
“He [is] a quiet assassin,” Adams said. “He doesn’t talk much, but it’s amazing how smart he is.”
Bradberry fractured his wrist during OTA practices in early June, but now just sports a soft protective cast during practices. It does not appear to be a major factor for the cornerback going forward. On Saturday, Bradberry intercepted a Cam Newton pass intended for Russell Shepard after reading the play perfectly and jumping the route.
It looks as if the Panthers will start James Bradberry (their number one cornerback) across from Daryl Worley, with the veteran Captain Munnerlyn playing the nickel. The cornerback unit should be much improved from 2016’s disastrous performance and the Panthers hope James Bradberry takes the next step in his development towards becoming a shutdown cornerback.