Jerome Miron/USA TODAY

Cortland Finnegan Makes a Strong First Impression with the Carolina Panthers

The Carolina Panthers have struggled at the nickel position when Bene Benwikere had to move outside to replace the injured Charles Tillman. Well against the New Orleans Saints they may have found the answer to their problems.

The Carolina Panthers' secondary has played well for most of the year but when Charles Tillman has missed the past few weeks, they don't have the depth they had hoped. The team had to move Bene Benwikere to the outside and move Colin Jones to the nickel position. This was a role he played at the end of last year but has not played at the level he did in 2014 this year.

The organization decided to bring in free agent Cortland Finnegan in hopes to solidify the position and while he is a former Pro Bowl cornerback, he has not played football since the end of the 2014 season. It certainly was a risk but with one game in the books it certainly looked like it will pay off.

It doesn't look like it took very long for Finnegan to surpass Jones on the depth chart as Finnegan played 30 snaps to Jones' nine against the Saints. It would be safe to say as long as Benwikere is playing on the outside in place of Tillman, Finnegan is the defense's nickel. 

This is an important role for the Panthers' defense as they spend a majority of the game in the nickel defense and will play with only two linebackers on the field (Luke Kuechly and Thomas Davis).

The coaching staff dialed up a number of different plays for Finnegan and even sent him on a few blitzes and he finished with one QB hit and one QB hurry.

He also did a good job dropping into coverage and according to Pro Football Focus Drew Brees threw at Finnegan six times. He allowed three receptions but did a good job of keeping the play in front of him and allowing only 25 receiving yards. Brees finished the game with a 61.1 QB rating throwing his direction.

It remains to be seen just how long Tillman is out with his injury but the defense should be better going forward with Finnegan now at the nickel position.

Twitter @BrandonCroce.

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