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Where Things Stand: Cornerbacks

Posted Jan 19, 2017

Panthers.com looks back at key moments and numbers from 2016 and looks ahead to the offseason and beyond.

POSITION REVIEW: It became a youth movement at corner for the Panthers. Rookies James Bradberry and Daryl Worley were thrust into prominent roles and both went through growing pains but showed signs of tremendous progress late in the year. Most expected veterans Bene Benwikere and Robert McClain to be key contributors, but both were released during the season. Leonard Johnson was activated from the reserve/non-football injury list and brought energy to the defense while taking ownership of the nickel spot.

STAT OF SIGNIFICANCE: Bradberry and Worley combined to start 24 games in 2016, and fifth-round pick Zack Sanchez started one. The 25 total starts by rookie corners is the most in a single season in franchise history.

PLAY OF THE YEAR: Bradberry displayed outstanding hand-eye coordination in the season finale against Tampa Bay to record his second career interception. Jameis Winston’s quick pass to Adam Humphries bounced off the wide receiver, and Bradberry used his right hand to tip the ball high into the air for the interception against the sideline.

TOP OFFSEASON STORYLINE: Who will be the nickel corner for this defense? As mentioned above, Johnson was a solid contributor, but he is set to become an unrestricted free agent. Sanchez, who was left off the original 53-man roster, is another candidate to play nickel after ending the season on injured reserve with a groin injury. Perhaps the answer could come from the free agent market.

HOPE FOR 2017: The Panthers have reason to be excited about the future of the position with Bradberry and Worley developing nicely. Both have the length and physicality to excel in Carolina’s defensive scheme. As head coach Ron Rivera said, if the second- and third-round picks from a year ago refuse to rest on their laurels, they have a chance to be a long-term tandem for the Panthers.