The Carolina Panthers signed safety Quintin Mikell on Monday to hopefully be the final piece in a puzzling secondary and a stout defense. The 10-year veteran will presumably take the place of Mike Mitchell, a move that would surely be an upgrade. The ex-Raider Mitchell struggled with penalties and coverage over the middle during the preseason, something the savvy veteran Mikell should be able to avoid.
Mitchell was the last real question mark in the secondary for the Panthers and also the final hole in the defense. Captain Munnerlynn and Charles Godfrey had their spots locked up before the season started, with Godfrey lingering on the edge of Pro Bowl potential, and Josh Norman has earned the other starting corner spot following an astounding preseason. If Norman can play at even half of the level he played during the preseason, then he will be an All-Pro, and the Panthers will have the first shutdown corner they’ve had in a long time.
Between Mikell, Godfrey, Norman and Munnerlynn, no one in the Panthers’ secondary strikes fear into the hearts of their opponents, but all of them are solid enough to be valued contributors and not stand out as glaring weaknesses. The Panthers have a very formidable front seven, with linebackers that are not only stout against the run but are also outstanding in coverage, and a defensive line that now has the interior presence to bring some serious pressure.
If the secondary can play solidly enough to not throw the game away, then the Panthers may be able to have a top-10 defense, because they may also have the best front seven in the NFL. And if Josh Norman can continue the roll that he has been on through August and Charles Godfrey can play to the level that I’ve always known he could, then the Panthers have a chance to have the best defense in the NFL. And no, that is not a misprint.