The Carolina Panthers’ secondary depth will be tested Sunday against Washington when cornerback Charles Tillman is expected to sit with a hyperextended knee.
Tillman is listed as doubtful after injuring his knee late in last week’s win at Tennessee. Panthers coach Ron Rivera is not optimistic about Tillman’s chances to play against Washington, calling him “very doubtful.”
That means second-year cornerback Bené Benwikere likely will get his first start of the season. Benwikere has been the Panthers’ top nickel back this year after starting the final four games last season at corner.
With Benwikere expected to play outside against Washington, backup safety Colin Jones would be the nickel. Special teams regular Teddy Williams would be the first corner off the bench.
“This is nothing new. This is not a group of guys that all of a sudden we’re trying to find out (about),” Rivera said Friday. “But what if something happens (to another starter)? That’s when you start to get concerned.”
The Panthers have only one player listed as out – left guard Andrew Norwell, who will miss his third game after pulling his hamstring against Indianapolis on Nov. 2. Amini Silatolu again will start in Norwell’s place.
Benwikere has given up several big plays this season and was burned for two touchdowns in a win against Green Bay, including a catch by tight end Richard Rodgers after Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers scrambled from the pocket.
Benwikere says coaches have talked to him about being consistent throughout an entire play.
“I’ve been playing well. But there’s plays that I maybe get a little lax on big things have happened,” Benwikere said. “So those things of course cloud and take away how well I’ve actually been doing.”
But Benwikere is confident the secondary can overcome the loss of Tillman, who woke up with soreness and swelling in the knee Thursday and did not practice all week.
“We’ve always got the juice,” Benwikere said. “We’re good.”