James Bradberry and Daryl Worley entered their second season attempting to make strides from their rookie season. The second and third round 2016 draft picks of the Panthers had a valuable year of experience under their belts.
Bradberry in his rookie season was named the top rookie cornerback by Pro Football Focus. His teammate Worley also graded out as a top 5 rookie cornerback. With a strong ending to their rookie season, both of their confidence levels were high heading into their second season.
Both of their second seasons were a mixed bag of results. Worley was benched against the Eagles and split game reps with Kevon Seymour, the third cornerback on the team. Bradberry on the other hand, gave up only 43 yards on 8 targets against the Eagles.
In week 8 against the Buccaneers, Bradberry gave up 5 receptions for 60 yards and a 68 quarterback rating when Winston targeted Evans.
His counter-part Worley gave up only 18 yards on 3 catches with a quarterback rating of 50 when targeted.
The next week against the Falcons, Julio Jones had 3 catches of atleast 20 yards against Bradberry and Worley while adding 6 catches for 118 yards against the two. This was the first game the Panthers allowed an 100 yard receiver all the year.
Against the Jets, the two cornerbacks struggled again. Jets’ receivers Jermaine Kearse and Robby Anderson each had over 100 yards receiving and each finding the endzone.
In the second game of the season against the Saints, Worley had his best game of the year. Worley allowed only one catch for three yards on 3 targets, all while covering Michael Thomas, the Saints top receiver.
The next two weeks went well for the second and third round picks. Against the Packers, Bradberry had 7 tackles, an interception on Aaron Rodgers and the game-clinching forced fumble to seal the game for the Panthers. Daryl Worley also picked off one of Rodgers’ passes in the first half.
The week after against the Vikings, both cornerbacks recorded their second interceptions of the season in back-to-back weeks helping the Panthers squeeze out an important victory.
The next week was more of the inconsistency they had all year. Two Tampa Bay receivers went over 100 yards receiving.
Some of the blame can be placed on first year Panthers defensive coordinator Steve Wilks for his inability to use the two lengthy corners skill-sets to their advantages. Leaving them in man coverage on islands often in games does not play to their strengths. Perhaps this was due to Wilks trusting too much on Bradberry and Worley because of his role as the secondary coach the year before. If Wilks stays in Carolina, I expect him to dial back the blitzes and man coverage schemes he called this past year.
These two players have showed the potential to be solid players but they have to develop the consistency required to be just that. Two lengthy corners with ball-skills are what Carolina values in cornerbacks. Both have those two things and we’ll see if they can rebound in their third year in the NFL.