If you are a Carolina Panthers fan waking up this morning you may feel a bit confused in recent draft events. It seems the Carolina Panthers may be implementing the first ever NFL all-nickel defensive secondary. It appears nickels are as in fashion as the match sticks tucked neatly in Cam Newton’s head band. So what the heck is going on and how will this all shake out in the end? I’ll give you a few of my thoughts.
The Panthers selected LSU’s Dante Jackson in round two without the need to trade up to grab him. Jackson was high on the Panthers board and apparently Marty Hurney was satisfied with the value there. When Jackson had his pre-draft visit with the Panthers he gained some insight into what his role would be. “When I was in Charlotte I know that they want me to play outside corner.” Jackson said. “They want to move me around at nickel.”
So here is the deal. Jackson is the fastest corner/nickel in the draft, but also slight in frame. In him, the Carolina Panthers now have a guy that can run step for step with Ted Ginn in New Orleans and Desean Jackson in Tampa Bay. Remember Ginn and Jackson getting behind the Panthers defensive secondary with relative ease? Watching Bradberry and Worley try to keep fast wide receivers in front of them was painful at times. Donte Jackson could remedy that situation right away. This draft selection makes a whole lot of sense in that context.
The Panthers then selected their second nickel of the night, Tennessee’s Rashaan Gaulden in round 3. Gaulden is a guy that is a nickel on paper and as far as the majority of his experience goes, but Marty Hurney feels he is a safety. “Now Rashaan Gaulden, who played a lot of nickel at Tennessee, will most likely go back and start at safety.” Hurney told the media. “He played nickel for most of his time at Tennessee. His flexibility, his instincts, his ball-skills – he’s a football player.”
If this works out, it will be a genius move by Hurney. Gaulden is not especially fast (4.61 40 yard dash), which gives him very little room for mental mistakes on the field as a safety. He does not have the closing speed that will compensate for hesitation or a mistake in his technique. When Hurney stated Gaulden would “start at safety”, hopefully he meant he would begin his NFL career at the safety position. Anointing a third round converted rookie safety a starter on defense would be very unwise, NFL GM’s typically don’t speak in such absolutes.
Hopefully the plan is to bring Gaulden up to speed slowly and perhaps compete for a starting safety position next season. I can’t imagine he would be ready to face Matt Ryan in Atlanta in September. Time will tell.Agree? Disagree? You can sound off right here with thousands of Carolina Panthers fans.