Carolina Panthers cornerback Captain Munnerlyn’s been in regular contact with Richard Marshall the past few days, and said he expects him back soon.
But as much as he misses him, he knows this weekend’s a chance to prove himself as well.
Munnerlyn, last year’s seventh-round pick out of South Carolina, has been working with the starting defense while Marshall’s staying away because of his contract situation.
“I don’t know when he’s going to come back, but I miss him,” Munnerlyn said. “He’s like a big brother. I look up to him out here, try to see what he’s doing. It makes my game better.”
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In many ways, Munnerlyn’s following a similar path to Marshall, who turned a job in the nickel defense into a full-time role last year. Munnerlyn surprised by winning the third job last season, and with Marshall away, has had to expand his repertoire.
Limited to playing outside last year in three-corner packages, Munnerlyn’s learning the nickelback role (inside over the slot receiver) this year. Playing the nickel is more of a mental challenge, forcing him to read more of the offense before the snap. Marshall excelled at it, but Munnerlyn’s trying to pick up the slack.
“This weekend, it’s very important, now with me with the first team full time, and running as the nickel,” Munnerlyn said. “He did a great job last year, and I was learning from him.”
Munnerlyn joked that he “appreciated it,” that Marshall was giving him the opportunity to prove himself versatile. And frankly, the Panthers might like finding out how much he can handle.
Barring a long-term contract extension, Marshall could potentially be an unrestricted free agent next offseason. And once you get beyond former first-rounder Chris Gamble, there’s not much pedigree at the cornerback position.
Munnerlyn, C.J. Wilson, R.J. Stanford and Robert McClain were all seventh-round picks, and Marcus Walker and Brian Witherspoon were undrafted players picked up after being cut by other teams.
“I have to step up now,” Munnerlyn said. “I’m running with the first (team) and showing the coaches I haven’t missed a beat.”