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Panthers' newest corners are ball hawks


Is Drayton Florence any good? – Russell in Goose Creek, S.C.

Absolutely. The only question might be how much longer can Florence be good.

The cornerback, a veteran of 10 NFL seasons, recently signed as an unrestricted free agent with the Panthers. He played in just eight games last season, but that shouldn't be taken as a sign that his body is breaking down. Florence suffered a broken arm in Week 2 but played through the injury. The Lions placed him on injured reserve, but as a testament to his value designated him for return. He did return and played in the final seven games.

In 2010 and 2011 with Buffalo, Florence started all 32 games and recorded six interceptions and 28 passes defensed to go with 108 tackles, two forced fumbles and two fumble recoveries. He scored twice in 2010.

Your question arrived before the Panthers inked another unrestricted free agent cornerback in D.J. Moore. And yes, he's good too. The 2009 fourth-round draft pick didn't play much as a rookie and didn't play as much as he hoped the last three years – being primarily used as a nickel back by the Bears – but he still managed 10 interceptions. And Moore, who got some snaps at every offensive skill position at Vanderbilt, believes he could play some free safety as well. Versatility is a valuable thing.

Why did it seem as though last year when the team got in the red zone that they mostly weren't able to get touchdowns and had to settle for field goals? We lost many tough close games where a touchdown instead of a field goal could have made a big difference. – Sean in Grovetown, Ga.

There are few things as demoralizing for a football fan – or a football team – than watching a perfectly executed drive bog down just short of the goal line. It undoubtedly seemed like that happened to the Panthers a lot in 2012, especially given the narrow nature of several of their losses. But statistically speaking, they actually got the job done.

The Panthers were ninth-best in the NFL when it came to converting red-zone possessions into touchdowns, finding the end zone 58.7 percent of the time (27-of- 46). Amazingly, though, that ranked last among NFC South teams, with New Orleans ranking second, Tampa Bay sixth and Atlanta a fraction of a percentage ahead of Carolina. Just three NFL teams – Tampa Bay among them – had fewer field goals on red zone possessions than the 11 the Panthers kicked, a stat that contributed to Carolina dropping to 24th in red zone scoring percentage. Even so, the Panthers scored 82.6 percent of the time they reached the red zone.

What's with all the buzz on about defensive ends? How could a DE possibly be one of our choices given what we already have? – Aaron in Myrtle Beach, S.C.

Staff writer Max Henson and I recently kicked off a comprehensive series on draft prospects that will run deep into April. We'll take a look at every position group on offense and defense, breaking down the top prospects at each position and then before taking a more in-depth and personal look at a player or two. So far, we've previewed defensive ends, tight ends, linebackers and running backs, with cornerbacks on the way next week. Our aim is to educate Panthers fans (and ourselves along the way) about all aspects of the draft.

And as for your thought that defensive ends specifically aren't a likely target for the Panthers, I'd counter that anything can happen come draft day.

Who is this wide receiver James Shaw? Looking at his stats from college, he doesn't seem like a worthwhile signing. – Staff in Fayetteville, N.C.

The Panthers signed Shaw, undrafted out of Jacksonville State in 2012, on Valentine's Day. It isn't always about the numbers. David Gettis had four touchdowns and two 100-yard receiving games in four years at Baylor but had a two-touchdown, 125-yard game as a rookie in 2010. In some ways, though, it is about numbers. The Panthers had 14 wide receivers at one point on their newly expanded 90-man roster last offseason. Shaw became the eighth receiver (and Ted Ginn has since become No. 9) on a roster that currently sits at 66 players.

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