CHARLOTTE — The Panthers will be without defensive back Myles Hartsfield for an extended time, forcing them to make some moves to compensate.
Panthers head coach Matt Rhule said that Hartsfield was expected to miss eight to 12 weeks because of a wrist injury suffered in Sunday's win over the Jets.
He's going on injured reserve, which allows for the possibility of a return late in the year, but it won't be soon.
Hartsfield is still getting opinions, but it appears he'll need surgery to repair the damage.
"I know they're going through the process of talking to different doctors and all that, so we'll see how that ends up," Rhule said. "But he'll be out significant time."
Hartsfield worked at both safety and running back last year when he made the team as an undrafted rookie from Ole Miss, and was their first option at nickel entering this season.
The Panthers are without veteran cornerback A.J. Bouye for one more week as he finishes up last year's suspension, meaning they'll have to patch a tire on a moving car.
Bouye missed some time in camp with a soft-tissue injury, but he's expected to be able to be ready to go next week as soon as he's eligible. He can't practice this week, but he can meet individually with coaches, go to team meetings, and work out at the team facility.
— The Panthers filled Hartsfield's roster spot by signing practice squad wide receiver Alex Erickson to the active roster.
Erickson was elevated from the practice squad for the week to return punts, but this makes his roster spot official.
The Panthers also brought back cornerback Jalen Julius to the practice squad. He was with them throughout the offseason. To make room for him, they released wide receiver Omar Bayless from the practice squad. More practice squad moves could be coming soon as they address the sudden shortage in the secondary.
— Beyond the injury concerns, the protection of quarterback Sam Darnold was on Rhule's mind, and the list of things that need to improve against the Saints.
"Sam was under too much duress, too much pressure," Rhule said. "I thought he was fearless, he stepped up, pressure in his face, but he was under too much pressure. We have to do a better job collectively of protecting the quarterback."
Darnold was sacked once, but the Jets had eight quarterback hits, most coming in the second half.
"All the guys that played for us, they'll continue to improve and work to get better," Rhule said. "We'll continue to find ways to try to help ourselves out. We went into that game knowing they've got a good defensive line; they've got some good players on that line. We knew it would be a challenge. All of us have to get better each week."
Rhule was pleased with their ability to close out the game running with 60 rushing yards in the fourth quarter, as that's central to what they want to do. But it's clear the line's play was not up to the standard.
— Toward that end, Rhule said he was "hopeful" that right guard John Miller could return this week.
Miller was placed on reserve/COVID-19 last week, and Rhule mentioned that he'd miss at least 10 days.
The timing of his comeback is still uncertain, and Rhule said he'd defer to doctors and wait to see what kind of condition Miller was in before he'd know for sure if he could play Sunday against the Saints.
Dennis Daley replaced him in the starting lineup against the Jets.
— Tight end Dan Arnold revealed what others would not, saying he got the sense that Sunday's win did mean more to Darnold because it was against his former team.
Arnold admitted he didn't talk to Darnold specifically about this claim. Darnold previously had gone to great lengths to say this wasn't the case.
"Yeah, I think Sam definitely really wanted this for sure, even without talking to him directly about it," Arnold said. "He still wanted to prove something, that he's got everything the Jets wanted, and they were dumb for getting rid of him.
"I think he's really happy for where he's at, and I'm happy for him to go in Week 1 and show them he's a good player in this league. I think his confidence is going to grow so much this week, and I'm really excited for the rest of the season."
— The Panthers had a decent enough day on returns, even though those positions were in flux entering the week.
They managed 40 yards of punt returns, with Erickson returning three for 31 yards, and DJ Moore adding one for 9 yards.
That's not bad, considering they only had 117 punt return yards as a team last season.
Rhule also liked rookie tight end Tommy Tremble's awareness on a 21-yard return late in the third quarter, after the Jets scored to cut the lead to 16-8.
Tremble fielded the ball from his normal blocking position, and gave the Panthers the ball at their own 37-yard line. The Panthers went onto kick a field goal to push it back to a two-score game.
"I think a huge play in the game, after they scored, Tommy Tremble stepping up and grabbing the ball and getting vertical. And we scored on that drive. Those are the quiet little plays in the game that you don't really think about, but that's complementary football.
"And Tommy, for a young guy to know to field that ball, get vertical, and lead to points, that's good for us."
— Darnold did something Sunday that only one other quarterback has done since 1950.
He was the eighth quarterback in that span to face his previous team in his first start after leaving that team.
The only other one to win was Detroit's Jeff Garcia against the Browns in 2005.
The six to lose included Miami's Chad Pennington against the Jets in 2008, Oakland's Josh McCown against the Lions in 2007, Arizona's Kurt Warner against the Giants in 2005, Detroit's Ty Detmer against Cleveland in 2001, Miami's Dick Wood against Oakland in 1966, and Oakland's Cotton Davidson against the Dallas Texans in 1962.
Including Garcia, those seven quarterbacks averaged 221.0 yards per game, with six touchdowns and 19 interceptions and a 52.7 rating.
Darnold was 24-of-35 for 279 yards, with a touchdown pass and a 102.0 passer rating, along with a touchdown run.
View the best photos from the field, pre-game and post-game between the Panthers and Jets in Week 1.