Panthers Preseason Spotlight: Captain Munnerlyn

Austin PennyAnalyst IAugust 24, 2009

O Captain my Captain!

The former South Carolina defensive back who expected to see himself come off the draft board in the early rounds of the draft came within just 39 picks of not being drafted at all.

That has put a large chip on the shoulder of Munnerlyn, who is making a case to make the Panthers roster all the way from the seventh round. 

There is no doubt that misunderstandings and a general inability to get along with the Gamecocks' coaching staff led to Munnerlyn's free fall down the draft ranks, but that doesn't change his mindset.

Munnerlyn has received praise from several of his fellow defenders during Panthers training camp.  He has made some spectacular plays and is also getting his shot at returning kicks, which may be his inside line to the final roster.

Captain's punt returning skills were put on display in Carolina's 27-17 loss to Miami on Saturday night, as he took his first chance 58 yards.  He reached the end zone for what would have been a touchdown, but he stepped out of bounds around the 25-yard line while trying to tiptoe the sideline.

That return was the first outstanding display by any of a long cast of characters in line to replace Mark Jones in the Panthers' return game.  As is often the case in the preseason, it could be the one spark that leads to Munnerlyn's name being skipped over on cut day.

Munnerlyn fumbled a punt return after his electric display, but had enough grit and fight in him to convince the referees he came up with the ball at the bottom of the pile.  The replay showed a Dolphins defender gaining initial possession on the fumble, but the officials saw Munnerlyn with possession, and since the play is not reviewable, the Panthers kept the ball.

There is no question that Captain has a long way to go before he finds himself in uniform when Philadelphia comes to town, but he is certainly on the right track.

Spotlight Update

Last week's Panthers preseason spotlight was on Jeremy Leman, a second-year linebacker.  Leman was less outstanding in his second preseason game with the Panthers, but recorded five total tackles during his time on the field.  With Jon Beason injured, Leman should see an increase in reps at practice for the next few weeks, which can only help him.