After the game yesterday, Carolina Panthers' head coach Ron Rivera said he was concerned about Charles Tillman's knee injury. Those concerns were validated as the Tillman suffered a torn ACL in the Panthers' final regular season game, according to the team's website.
This is the same knee that kept Tillman out for four games earlier this season but he was able to return for the final three games of the regular season. It was reported back in mid-December by Bill Voth at Black and Blue Review that Tillman had a partially torn ACL. He was able to come back and in his first game had two key turnovers (one forced fumble, one interception) that helped the Panthers' grab the win against the NY Giants.
While the injury will keep Tillman off the field, he will still have an impact on this team throughout the playoff run. He has been valuable to this defense in his understanding of the defense and is his ability to communicate with the defensive backs. Max Henson of Panthers.com described Tillman as another DB coach.
The Panthers are going to need this type of leadership as the depth at the position is sure to be tested in the playoffs. The Panthers are going to most likely turn to Robert McClain to replace Tillman, who came in against the Bucs yesterday. He finished the game with seven tackles and an interception in the second half.
This defense has been hit hard by injury this year now losing two of their top three cornerbacks with Bene Benwikere suffering a broken leg in the first game against the Atlanta Falcons and now Tillman. The front office though has done a good job of finding replacements as Cortland Finnegan has played well the past five games and McClain played well in limited action yesterday.
The positive, if there is one, is the fact that the Panthers now have two weeks to get McClain up to speed with their first round bye. This should provide the coaching staff to make any necessary changes to the gameplan, if they feel the need to.