Carolina Panthers’ defensive end Charles Johnson was hoping to get some reps in during the team’s final preseason game against the Pittsburgh Steelers. The leading pass rusher has missed the past three games due to a calf injury he suffered early in training camp.
All signs pointed to him being ready to go tomorrow night, however Johnson suffered an injury in his upper back on Sunday. The injury kept him out of the last two practices and he will not travel for the final preseason game, according to The Charlotte Observer’s Joseph Person.
As Person notes, this the second consecutive preseason that Johnson has missed due to injuries. Last year, Johnson played in only one preseason game and missed the remaing games due to a hamstring injury. He then had a slow start to the season with no sacks in his first month and only 8.5 over the 2014 season.
Johnson has been a key to the Panthers’ defense and a steady pass rusher over the past few seasons. Since 2010, Johnson has averaged over 10 sacks a season and is currently fifth in the NFL in sacks over that time span with 52.5.
This year the team is going to be looking to Johnson, like they did last year, to help lead the team in this category. A consistent pass rush by Johnson will help open up some easier matchups for Kony Ealy, who is entering his second season and is still developing as a pass rusher. While it is important for Johnson to get some playing time, it is more important for him to be completely healthy entering the regular season. It certainly makes sense for the Panthers to be overly cautious when it comes to these types of injuries during the preseason.
The Panthers face off against the Steelers in Pittsburgh on Thursday night at 7:30 PM.
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