Originally posted on 60 Max Power O  |  Last updated 5/15/12

The Carolina Panthers ranked 24th in the NFL against the pass last season, allowing an average of 246.8 yards per game through the air.

Injuries certainly played a large part in the secondary's struggles. Cornerback Brandon Hogan, a fourth-round pick in 2011, missed 13 games with a knee injury. Captain Munnerlyn (2), Darius Butler (3), Charles Godfrey (2) and Chris Gamble (1) all missed games, as well. Reserves Jonathan Nelson, Jordan Pugh and R.J. Stanford were forced into emergency duty toward the end of the season.

The Panthers also had an anemic pass rush, which exacerbated an already bad secondary. In 2011, the defense registered just 31 sacks (25th in the NFL) and failed to consistently pressure opposing quarterbacks, making the jobs of the corners and safeties much more difficult.

However, these are not excuses for the poor play of the defensive backs. Chris Gamble was the only bright spot in a secondary that constantly blew assignments and surrendered big plays.

After a stellar 2010 campaign, Captain Munnerlyn struggled starting opposite Gamble, giving up the worst completion percentage in the NFL (73.8 percent). At 5-foot-8, 185 pounds, Munnerlyn – more of a natural nickelback – has trouble covering larger receivers.

Safeties Sherrod Martin and Charles Godfrey were particularly atrocious. Both routinely surrendered big plays, took bad angles and blew coverage assignments.

So will things get better in 2012?

There's nowhere to go but up. The pass defense will instantly improve just by getting healthy.

However, Panthers fans will likely see some new faces in the defensive backfield.

General manager Marty Hurney has done a masterful job of bringing in free agents to create competition at several positions.

In fact, Chris Gamble is really the only one who has a guaranteed starting job.

Brandon Hogan, Darius Butler and fifth-round pick Josh Norman will battle Captain Munnerlyn for the other starting cornerback position.

The Panthers also brought in free agents Haruki Nakamura and Reggie Smith to compete with Charles Godfrey and Sherrod Martin at safety.

This year, there will be much more depth and talent in the secondary. If one guy isn't getting it done, the next guy will be ready to step up. A little competition is a good thing. Guys will push each other to get better – and at the end of the day – the man that ends up at the top of the depth chart will have earned it.Check back tomorrow for a more in-depth look at the new faces in the secondary.

Be sure to check out other great articles at Sports Media 101.

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