The Carolina Panthers defense was in bad shape when they lost Charles Godfrey for the season in Week 2, as well as sustaining other temporary injuries to the secondary. Someone was going to have to step up, and boy did they do just that. Free-agent acquisition Mike Mitchell and rookie Robert Lester have more than made up for the loss of Godfrey at the safety position, forcing two turnovers each since his loss and also playing outstanding in coverage en route to the ninth ranked pass defense in the league.
While other players have stepped and have more than made up for those who have been injured, one player hasn’t had to step up at all. He just keeps playing at the same level he has played all season and even into last season, and he has been outstanding. That player is Captain Munnerlyn, a late-round pick once shrouded in obscurity that is now the heart of the Panthers defensive backfield. He has been quietly dominant this season, refusing to surrender a touchdown. He hasn’t really been flashy about it though, other than his pick-six against the St. Louis Rams.
I must admit that I didn’t expect much from Munnerlyn when the Panthers drafted him in the seventh round out of South Carolina, and neither did the Panthers. Munnerlyn wasn’t expected to play a big role for the Panthers with Chris Gamble and Richard Marshall firmly entrenched in starting roles, but Gamble has since retired and Marshall made his way out via free agency. He’s more than made up for the loss of those players too, becoming the best shutdown corner the Panthers have has since Ken Lucas was in his prime. Good thing for the Panthers too, because they need a shutdown corner in a division that includes Roddy White, Julio Jones, Vincent Jackson and Drew Brees.