CHARLOTTE – Quarterback Cam Newton is expected to play Sunday at the New Orleans Saints, but the Panthers will face a daunting challenge with their injured secondary preparing to face Drew Brees and Co.
Both starting cornerbacks have been ruled out, with James Bradberry (foot) out for the second consecutive week and Robert McClain out with a hamstring injury that flared up in practice midweek.
Rookie Daryl Worley will get his second consecutive start, with fellow rookie Zack Sanchez – elevated from the practice squad last week – or Teddy Williams starting at the other corner spot. Head coach Ron Rivera said either Sanchez or safety Colin Jones would man the nickel spot and added that Lou Young could be signed off the practice squad.
The Saints rank second in the NFL in passing offense.
"Iths a high-powered, spread-you-out, throw-the-ball-downfield offense that also has the ability to run the ball," Rivera said. "You just have to deal with it. It's what we have. We're going to line up and play."
Newton officially remains in the concussion protocol after missing last week's game but is expected to be cleared and start "barring a setback," Rivera said. Running back Jonathan Stewart is also expected to start after missing the last three games with a hamstring injury. The Saints are allowing an NFL-high 32.5 points per game.
Both Newton and Stewart are officially listed as questionable. Rivera said he feels good about the availability of the players listed as questionable, a list that also includes wide receiver Kelvin Benjamin (knee) and defensive end Charles Johnson (quad). All four questionable players took part in practice Friday, and the NFL no longer has a "probable" designation.
In addition to Bradberry and McClain, left tackle Michael Oher (concussion) and defensive tackles Vernon Butler (ankle) and Paul Soliai (foot) have been ruled out. The Panthers signed defensive lineman Wes Horton on Friday.
"We have a guy we can hedge our bets with – who can play inside or outside for us," Rivera said of Horton. "We're very fortunate Wes was out there."
View photos of the Panthers' week of practice leading up to their game against New Orleans.