CHARLOTTE – Cornerback Charles Tillman is expected to miss his fourth consecutive game Sunday with a knee injury, but the Panthers are managing to find a silver lining in his absence.
"The nice thing is it gives the other guys opportunities to continue to get their feet wet, and it has allowed Cortland (Finnegan) to continue to work inside, too," head coach Ron Rivera said. "It's been good as far that's concerned, but it's not good having Charles not available."
With Tillman out, Bene Benwikere has gained more experience at outside corner opposite Josh Norman. If Benwikere were at nickel, it would be difficult for Finnegan – signed November 30 – to get many snaps there, even more so with Colin Jones still in the rotation.
"He's coming along really nicely," Rivera said of Finnegan, "and he seems to be fitting in really nice as far as in the locker room, the meeting room and on the field."
The other good news is that while Tillman is listed as doubtful for Sunday's game against Atlanta, he is improving.
"It hasn't responded the way we had hoped, but it has responded nicely," Rivera said. "He's gotten stronger and better, and he's doing more and more. It's just not where we need to have him. We've just got to be judicious about it and continue to work."
Wide receiver Brenton Bersin also is listed as doubtful with a groin injury that cropped up this week, but it's doubtful that Bersin would have been active even without the injury. Bersin started the season on the practice squad and hasn't often played unless one of Carolina's top four receivers – Philly Brown, Ted Ginn, Jerricho Cotchery and Devin Funchess – has been injured.
"Joe Webb is kind of that fifth, emergency receiver for us," Rivera said. "He plays such a big role on special teams. He's done such a great job for us."
Defensive end Mario Addison is probable to return from an ankle injury that forced him to miss one game. He practiced fully all week in higher temperatures than are typical for December, which should help the Panthers prepare for the game day forecast of low 70s.
"Since we saw the forecast on Tuesday, we've been talking to the guys about hydrating, getting their rest, staying off their feet," Rivera said. "Hopefully we're focusing on that."
View photos from the Panthers' week of practice leading up to their game against the Falcons.