One of the areas that the Carolina Panthers needed to be addressed this offseason was the cornerback position opposite Josh Norman. Last year’s fifth round pick Bene Benwikere played well the second half of the season at the spot but he is much better suited to be the team’s nickelback. A move inside would really strengthen this team’s secondary.
Prior to the NFL Draft the Panthers went out and signed Charles Tillman, who has experience playing in Ron Rivera’s defense and could be a nice stop gap this season if he can stay healthy. However, right before the start of minicamp, the Panthers also signed veteran Chris Houston who could be a better answer because he could be more of a long-term solution.
Houston was a second round pick for the Atlanta Falcons back in 2007 and played pretty well for them over the first three years of his career. He averaged around 55 tackles per year and had three interceptions in his final two season with the Falcons.
The team decided to trade Houston after the 2009 season to the Detroit Lions and that is when Houston’s career really took off. He continued to average around 55 tackles per season but had 10 interceptions over four seasons with the Lions. He had five interceptions in 2011 alone, returning two for touchdowns.
The Lions rewarded Houston with a five-year, $25 million contract prior to the 2013 season. However, Houston suffered a toe injury that season and the Lions released him prior to last season. There was some concern about whether or not he would be able to fully recover from it.
Houston sat out the entire 2014 season and the Panthers have now taken a chance on the 30-year old cornerback. The hope is that with him sitting out the entire season last year it has given the injury plenty of time to heal and Houston can play at a high level.
If Houston is healthy, he could actually be a better option for the Panthers’ defense than Charles Tillman. Both players have had injury concerns with Tillman missing 22 games the past two years due to tricep injuries. However, Houston is four years younger than Tillman and could be more of a long term solution at the cornerback position.
It is certainly hard to feel completely confident with either player at cornerback due to the injuries they have suffered recently. This is going to be an interesting training camp battle and one that wouldn’t be surprising to see Chris Houston win.
Brandon Croce is the Lead Publisher for PantherInsider.com. You can find him on Twitter @BrandonCroce.