CHARLOTTE – Now that the Panthers are dealing with the unexpected loss of defensive end Charles Johnson to a four-game suspension, let's look at how they'll fill the void for the next month.
Head coach Ron Rivera on Friday said Julius Peppers would "probably" take over Johnson's starting spot this weekend in New Orleans. Peppers has 227 starts in his Hall of Fame career, but he's come off the bench in 2017.
Peppers, Wes Horton and Mario Addison have combined for 19 sacks this season, but the Panthers will likely need a fourth defensive end on game days. That should give Bryan Cox Jr. an opportunity. The undrafted rookie has been on the 53-man roster all year, but he's appeared in just two games.
"The little game experience I did have, it was good to get out there and get my feet wet," Cox said after Friday's practice. "I've definitely been waiting, been preparing, been practicing real hard, and now I've got my opportunity."
The Panthers also added some depth at defensive end by promoting Zach Moore from the practice squad. He replaces offensive tackle John Theus, who was placed on injured reserve. Moore has played in 10 games since 2014, making three tackles.
Because Johnson will begin serving his suspension immediately, he'll be eligible to return in Week 17. He has totaled 13 quarterback pressures and 17 tackles in his 11th season.