Opposing teams must be saying their prayers when they are about to face the Carolina Panthers.
Christian McCaffrey joined team practices and can play in a week or two.
He will be a handful for defenses because of his capability to dominate in the run and the pass offense.
Sam Darnold is dangerous with his legs 🏎💨 pic.twitter.com/E03nqqtPom
— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) October 3, 2021
However, that’s only half of the nightmares other NFL teams must address when they line up against the Panthers.
Boy, that defense is like breaking the Enigma code.
But the stellar unit got better with a couple of additions in the secondary.
“Carolina has now acquired CJ Henderson and Gilmore at a combined $7.1M in 2021 cap.”
— John Ellis (@1PantherPlace) October 6, 2021
The Jaguars selected Henderson with the ninth pick in the 2020 NFL Draft and he played eight games in his rookie year.
He finished the season with 36 tackles, six passes defended, a forced fumble, and an interception.
Jacksonville did get a nice red zone target in Arnold but further degraded their pass defense.
In contrast, Henderson joins a Carolina secondary that allows 156.5 yards per game (second-best in the NFL).
Part of that cast is Donte Jackson, who is in his fourth season with the Panthers.
The #Panthers now have:
– A.J. Bouye
– Jaycee Horn (providing he comes back this season)
– Stephon Gilmore
– C.J. Henderson
– Donte Jackson
Lord have mercy.
— Dean Jones (@DeanJones_) October 6, 2021
The defensive back from LSU has 17 tackles, and two passes defended through Week 4.
Then there’s former Pro Bowler A.J. Bouye, who joined the Panthers this year.
But their biggest addition this season is 2019 Defensive Player of the Year Stephon Gilmore.
Surprisingly, the New England Patriots moved on from Gilmore when he was close to returning to action.
The market went crazy when he became available.
Major Upgrade For The Panthers
Experts floated the Dallas Cowboys and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers as potential destinations for Gilmore.
Tampa Bay made the most sense because their starting defensive backs are out due to injuries, and they still need help despite signing Richard Sherman.
But no one saw Carolina as the frontrunner, and they swooped in quickly.
A stunner: Patriots are releasing four-time Pro Bowl cornerback Stephon Gilmore, who was eligible to come off the Physically Unable to Perform List after Week 6, source tells ESPN. pic.twitter.com/31H8KQF8hq
— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) October 6, 2021
All they had to let go of was a sixth-round pick in 2023 to get a cornerback who led the league in interceptions once.
Gilmore is also part of the Patriots’ 2010s All-Decade Team and won Super Bowl LIII against the Los Angeles Rams.
He had an interception in that game to prevent the Rams from scoring a game-tying touchdown.
The 31-year-old defensive back was also First-team All-Pro in 2018 and 2019.
Joining the Panthers will be a homecoming for the South Carolina native.
Patriots trading CB Stephon Gilmore to the Panthers in exchange for a 2023 sixth-round pick. pic.twitter.com/SRAX1bqg74
— NFL (@NFL) October 6, 2021
More importantly, he gets to join a defense that punishes opponents.
Opposing quarterbacks must look out for the Panthers’ secondary because they’re ball hawks who can shut down receivers.
Adding Gilmore to the mix gives them a cornerback who can cover bigger wideouts.
He’s a physical player who can hinder a receiver’s route from throwing the quarterback’s timing off.
Flashback to Super Bowl LIII: Stephon Gilmore makes the game sealing interception and the Patriots capture their SIXTH Super Bowl Ring 🏆🔥 pic.twitter.com/f2J5XLFp5o
— Pats Buzz (@PatsBuzz) December 8, 2020
However, there are still two weeks before he can return from the PUP list.
The Minnesota Vikings must seek divine intervention before that day comes.