Opportunities Amid the Attrition Throughout the Carolina Panthers Defense

Tyler EverettContributor IINovember 22, 2011

SPARTANBURG, SC - JULY 30:  Jon Beason #52 of the Carolina Panthers during training camp at Wofford College on July 30, 2011 in Spartanburg, South Carolina.  (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)
Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

Anyone looking for a silver lining associated with the Carolina Panthers defense needs to get creative. With games remaining against potent offenses like those in Houston, New Orleans and Atlanta, Sunday's debacle in Detroit wasn't the last long day this defense will have.

I could list off all the injuries that have beleaguered this unit, but the bottom line is that Carolina has simply been forced to give playing time to a lot of guys that probably aren't ready for it, especially at linebacker. But while it's nothing short of agony to watch some of these guys play in the short term, it's also a chance for a lot of unsung players to seize an opportunity.

Because it's hard, at this point, to single out as future stars any of the waiver-wire defenders that have been thrust into action for Carolina, I will list guys that have begun roads to stardom that started because of injuries.

I'll start with Tom Brady, who would have sat on New England's bench for longer than many people can imagine had Patriots starter Drew Bledsoe not gone down in September of 2001 with internal bleeding suffered on a hit from Jets linebacker Mo Lewis.

Staying in New England, an ironically similar situation presented itself in Foxboro, when Matt Cassel stepped in and enjoyed tremendous success after a season-ending injury to Tom Brady in September of 2008.

While Cassel didn't start a career arch quite like Brady's, he played well enough to earn a great deal of league-wide respect. That garnered New England a second-round pick after the 2008 season.

On the defensive side of the ball, where a similar story will hopefully start to write itself in the coming weeks in Charlotte, James Harrison overcame the longest of odds to finally begin an eventually outstanding pro career in Pittsburgh in 2004.

After an injury to Clark Haggans before the '04 season, Harrison, who had been cut from the league four times, finally made the roster. In 2008, he was named Defensive Player of the Year.

The stories of Brady, Cassel and Harrison are just three examples off the top of my head. A litany of other NFL superstars have gotten great careers started under similar circumstances.

Do I really expect a Harrison or Brady-type player to emerge for the Panthers between now and January? Absolutely not.

But this is what you resort to dreaming/writing about when third-stringers and waiver-wire players play like many of the Panthers defenders did Sunday in giving up 495 yards, 29 first downs and 49 points.

And it could have been worse—the Lions put up those numbers without starting running back Jahvid Best and after committing turnovers on their first three possessions.