The Carolina Panthers last year had to fix the cornerback position on the fly midseason, which is no easy task. The team lost Charles Tillman twice for extended periods of time as well as Bene Benwikere, who suffered a fractured leg in the second to last regular season game of the year.
This offseason the team has gone through as much change at the position with placing the franchise tag on Josh Norman, essentially guaranteeing him to be a part of this team for at least the upcoming season, and then rescinding that tag. The team also signed free agent Brandon Boykin to solidify the nickel position and then releasing him two months later.
The front office understood that this is a position of need and drafted three cornerbacks in the NFL Draft: James Bradberry, Daryl Worley and Zack Sanchez. While, this should help the defense long-term, it still leaves plenty of questions for this upcoming season.
One player who could be a key to solidifying the secondary this season is a player signed at the end of last season, Robert McClain.
McClain was drafted by the Panthers in 2010 in the seventh round but was cut shortly before the 2011 season. He eventually joined the Atlanta Falcons and spent the next three seasons with the team, registering at least 60 tackles each season.
He then signed with the New England Patriots in 2015 but was one of the final cuts prior to the start of the season. Luckily for the Panthers, McClain was still available at the end of the season and stepped into a starting role the last four games of the season, including Super Bowl 50.
As a starter, McClain had 25 tackles, one interception and six passes defended over that stretch. He was able to play at this level with limited time to learn the defense. If he is given a full offseason, he should be more comfortable in this defense which should help him improve even more.
The Panthers' secondary is going to see a drastic transformation and this is not only at cornerback. The team only has one starter returning, Kurt Coleman, and are expected to go with Tre Boston as the other starting safety.
There is no question that the Panthers hope their long-term answer to the cornerback position is in the draft class however after a strong postseason, McClain should be the key player to this defense's success in 2016.