The Carolina Panthers have an injury crisis in their secondary. A unit that was already weak heading into the season has been ravaged by injuries in the first two weeks.
The biggest blow came in Sunday's loss to the Buffalo Bills. Strong safety Charles Godfrey went down with a torn Achilles, ending his season. That leaves Quintin Mikell, Michael Mitchell and Colin Jones as the only safeties left on the roster. Mikell himself left the game with an ankle injury that coach Ron Rivera says is "touch and go," and Mitchell returned after nursing a hamstring injury in Week 1. The Panthers promoted rookie Robert Lester from the practice squad, and he may be pressed into duty sooner than later.
Injuries at the safety position aren't the only ones Carolina is struggling with. Cornerbacks Josh Norman and Josh Thomas also left the game. Norman has been diagnosed with a sprained MCL, which could keep him out multiple weeks. Thomas suffered a concussion and will have to go through the league's concussion protocol before being cleared to play again. That leaves the cornerback group down to Captain Munnerlyn, D.J. Moore and Melvin White.
Panthers blog Cat Scratch Reader says that this was the worst-case scenario for a secondary that could be among the worst in the league even when healthy:
This is a huge blow to the Panthers' secondary. The other two starting-quality safeties on the roster -- Quintin Mikell and Mike Mitchell -- are both strong safeties. So, either the Panthers will have to play one of them out of position, sign a free agent or hand over the keys to Colin Jones. None of those scenarios should give fans confidence in a secondary that was already weak with Godfrey in the lineup.
What we know at this moment is we just lost the best player in our secondary and that we are in serious need of help in that group unless we plan on never allowing the opposing team to pass the football. Since that's practically impossible, GM Dave Gettleman will have to make a personnel move sooner rather than later, and as soon as something is announced we will certainly provide that information to you.
The Panthers' secondary woes threaten to squander a front seven that looks like one of the best in football. Despite shutting down Marshawn in Week 1, they allowed Russell Wilson to throw for 320 yards and blew a fourth quarter lead. A complete breakdown in coverage led to Stevie Johnson getting wide open in the end zone, leading to a last-second touchdown and loss to the Bills.
The Panthers couldn't have had a worse start to the season. They're 0-2, the offense is sputtering and Rivera's seat grows warmer by the week. Things won't get any easier against NFC South teams that love to air it out. The rash of defensive injuries is just one more headache in a season that's in danger of spiraling out of control.