Can Carolina Panthers rookie CB Troy Pride Jr. win a starting spot in 2020?
The Carolina Panthers are taking on a lot of change in 2020, perhaps more than any other team in the NFL.
They have experienced the overwhelming negative effects of that financially, but they are building the team Matt Rhule’s way.
With all of that dead money on the books, the Panthers are going to have to rely on a lot of young players to step up and step into big roles sooner rather than later.
One of those young players on the Panthers who could potentially be counted on to start or play a substantial role as a rookie? Fourth-round pick Troy Pride Jr. out of Notre Dame.
Pride played in part of all four of his seasons with the Fighting Irish and really blossomed in his last two years on campus, showing how critical long speed can be in coverage by shutting down the deep passing game when the ball was thrown his direction.
The Panthers lost their top two guys in the 2020 offseason in the pass breakup department. Those players were linebacker Luke Kuechly, who retired from football and has taken a role in the Panthers’ scouting department, as well as James Bradberry, who signed a free agent contract with the New York Giants.
The loss of Bradberry created a gaping hole at cornerback opposite Donte Jackson, and the Panthers have a couple of guys who could be reasonably expected to fill that spot.
Eli Apple vs. Troy Pride?
The only cornerback who played significant snaps for the Panthers in 2019 who is returning for the 2020 season is Donte Jackson.
The Panthers likely didn’t want to pin themselves into a corner of having to draft a cornerback early in the 2020 NFL Draft, so they signed veteran Eli Apple, a former first-round pick of the New York Giants who may yet have some upside only entering his age 25 season.
Apple’s first-round pedigree and NFL experience may be his only edge over Pride at this point, even with some of Pride’s inconsistencies in coverage where long speed was not part of the equation.
Some of the knocks on Pride leading up to the 2020 NFL Draft were a lack of aggressiveness, both in terms of attacking the ball in coverage as well as attacking in the running game as a tackler.
He’s going to need to develop more of an edge rather quickly with the Panthers, who are going to be all about speed and toughness under Matt Rhule.
Despite the fact that Pride has no experience, it’s possible that as a fourth-round pick, he could come into Panthers training camp and win a starting job for this Carolina defense. He has all of the raw tools and athleticism to be effective early on, but can he be physical and aggressive enough? Time will tell.