Cade Mays

NFC Injury Updates: Zavala, Jefferson, Jones

The Panthers experienced a scare when starting left guard Chandler Zavala collapsed on the field and remained facedown after experiencing a neck injury in today’s loss to the Lions. The team’s medical staff placed him on a backboard, and as he was carted off the field, Zavala gave the stadium a thumbs-up.

The rookie fourth-round starter was taken immediately to a hospital where he was alert, responsive, and had movement in all his extremities. He underwent several tests, all of which came back well, was released from the hospital, and rejoined his teammates at the airport to return to Charlotte with the team, according to Panthers staff writer Darin Gantt.

In Zavala’s absence, second-year guard Cade Mays finished out the game at left guard. If Zavala’s neck injury forces him to miss any additional time, Mays will likely have an opportunity to prove his worth as a consistent starter after only starting two games his rookie year.

Here are a few other injury updates from today:

  • Early in the fourth quarter of today’s loss to the Dolphins, Giants quarterback Daniel Jones was knocked out of the game with a neck injury. This was cause for concern in New York, knowing that Jones missed the final six weeks of the 2021 season with a neck injury. While not an official diagnosis, head coach Brian Daboll relayed that Jones had told him after the game that he would be okay, per Dan Duggan of The Athletic. ESPN’s Jordan Raanan informed that Jones had negative X-rays at the stadium and would undergo an MRI tomorrow for an accurate diagnosis.
  • Late in the Vikings loss to the Chiefs, star wide receiver Justin Jefferson exited the game with a hamstring injury after slipping on the field. After what appeared to be a pep talk with his young wideout, head coach Kevin O’Connell told the media that it’s “still very early” to establish a timeline for Jefferson’s return, according to Kevin Seifert of ESPN, seemingly putting some doubt on the All-Pro’s status moving forward.

Panthers G Brady Christensen Out For Year

SEPTMEBER 16: Frank Reich made the announcement today that second-year interior lineman Cade Mays will start in Christensen’s place for now, according to Panthers staff writer Darin Gantt. He reportedly declined to specify whether Mays would start at right or left guard, though. Last week, Zavala made the start at right guard in Corbett’s place across from Christensen. That being said, Zavala played most of his college career, at Fairmont State and NC State, at left guard. This should give Reich some flexibility in how he wants to address his starting lineup with two backups at guard.

SEPTMEBER 13: Reminding of the situation to close last season, the Panthers will be without both their starting guards. Brady Christensen is now on IR. The third-year blocker sustained a biceps injury late in Carolina’s loss in Atlanta.

The injury Christensen suffered will sideline him for the rest of the season, David Newton of notes. Potentially a biceps tear, Christensen’s setback comes at a bad time for the Panthers, as it is not known if Corbett will be ready to return from the reserve/PUP list when first eligible. This will also derail some momentum Christensen had established as a guard. The 2024 season will be a contract year for the former college All-American.

The Panthers remain without their starting right guard — Austin Corbett — due to the ACL tear he suffered in Week 18. Corbett began the season on the reserve/PUP list. He is ineligible to return until at least Week 5. Christensen, who lines up at left guard, is now out until at least Week 6.

Carolina re-signing center Bradley Bozeman revealed a plan for the team to return the same five O-linemen from 2022, doing so despite changing coaching staffs this offseason. But it will be a bit before that vision can be realized. Christensen joined Corbett in going down just before the close of last season. The former third-round pick suffered a broken ankle in the Panthers’ season finale, and while he returned ahead of Corbett, more time away will now be required.

Viewed as a tackle earlier in his career, Christensen moved to guard on a full-time basis during the 2022 offseason and started 17 games. Chandler Zavala, a rookie fourth-round pick, started opposite Christensen against the Falcons. Chosen due partially to the injury trouble the team was experiencing at guard, Zavala will be a Panthers starter for the foreseeable future.

Cade Mays, Calvin Throckmorton and rookie UDFA Nash Jensen reside as options to replace Christensen. The Panthers added Throckmorton off waivers from the Saints in August. Mays started two games last season, and while he made offseason strides, Zavala beat him out for the starting job. Jensen did not see any game action in Week 1. Throckmorton made 20 starts from 2021-22 with New Orleans; he represents an interesting option as the Panthers prepare to face the Saints in Week 2.

NFC Rumors: Bucs, Lions, Panthers, Packers

The Buccaneers may be considered as a rebuilding squad, but that doesn’t matter much to the players fighting for roster spots in the late preseason. As the regular season inches nearer and nearer, two starting positions are starting to come into focus, according to Rick Stroud of the Tampa Bay Times.

On offense, center Ryan Jensen has not returned to practice as he continues to recover from three knee ligament tears that he opted not to have surgery on. In his absence, Robert Hainsey and Nick Leverett have been competing for the starting job. Hainsey likely has a bit of an edge after playing the position in college and starting all 17 games last season for Tampa Bay, but Leverett has meshed well in new offensive coordinator Dave Canales‘ new zone-blocking scheme. Even if Hainsey can’t hold onto the job, Leverett may keep the position competitive.

On defense, Dee Delaney has really stepped up at nickelback after the team opted to move Antoine Winfield Jr. back to free safety full-time. Delaney, who spent four years at The Citadel before transferring to Miami (FL) and going undrafted, has stuck in Tampa Bay, playing 32 games over the past two seasons while starting three of them. Delaney has had a great camp as reflected in a stellar performance in last week’s preseason game against the Jets. Undrafted rookie Christian Izien has also impressed with physical play throughout the preseason, while rookie sixth-round pick Josh Hayes has fallen a bit behind in the position battle.

Here are a few more roster battles to watch heading into the final weekend of preseason games this season:

  • Nate Sudfeld was viewed as a solid backup option at quarterback for the Lions last season. Coming into 2023, though, he may be struggling to retain a roster spot, according to Justin Rogers of The Detroit News. Obviously, Jared Goff has the starting job locked up, but recently signed veteran Teddy Bridgewater has made a strong case for the QB2 role behind him. Sudfeld still has value to the team, but head coach Dan Campbell made it clear that his roster status depends on if he adds more value to the team than depth at other positions on the roster. If CB5 or CB6 end up adding more value than Sudfeld as QB3, he may find himself missing out on the initial 53-man roster.
  • As starting guard Austin Corbett waits to be cleared following ACL surgery, the Panthers‘ situation at guard is feeling a bit precarious. A tweet from Joseph Person of The Athletic tells that a decision on the starting right guard job in Corbett’s absence has been delayed until the returns from injury of rookie fourth-round pick Chandler Zavala and undrafted rookie Nash Jensen. Head coach Frank Reich wanted both rookies to have a chance for the spot before making the decision. Zavala was recently activated from the physically unable to perform list and hasn’t seen much action. Jensen was impressing early in the offseason before a back injury slowed his progress. They’ll compete with Cade Mays and Justin McCray for the position, but Person believes that Carolina may pursue some added competition at roster cutdowns.
  • Last week, the Packers‘ seventh-round pick from last year, Rasheed Walker, got the starting call at left tackle ahead of usual backup Yosh Nijman, according to Matt Schneidman of The Athletic. Nijman has been the usual go-to at tackle when starter David Bakhtiari isn’t available, but Schneidman thinks that Walker may have worked his way past Nijman on the depth chart as of late.

NFC South Rumors: Alford, Mays, Saints

In January 2022, the Falcons signed cornerback Dee Alford out of the Canadian Football League to a reserve/futures contract. A year and a half later, Alford could be pushing for a starting role, according to ESPN’s Michael Rothstein.

After going undrafted out of Tusculum, Alford signed with the Winnipeg Blue Bombers of the CFL in 2020 but didn’t get to play after the COVID-19 pandemic canceled the season. When the team returned in 2021, Alford won a starting job and helped lead the Bombers to their second consecutive Grey Cup title.

Following his signing in the offseason, Alford defied the odds by making the 53-man roster. Alford served as a depth piece in the Falcons secondary for much of the year but did come up with a few big plays. In a Week 2 loss to the Rams, Alford gained his team two points with a safety. Two weeks later, he recorded a game-clinching interception over the Browns.

According to Rothstein, Alford has been rising in the offseason for Atlanta. In spring practices, Alford reportedly “took the vast majority of first-team reps at slot (cornerback).” Mike Hughes was the presumed starter at nickelback heading into the offseason, but Alford is making himself hard to ignore as he pushes for a starting role.

Here are a few other rumors coming out of the NFC South:

  • A sixth-round pick for the Panthers last year, Cade Mays may find himself in a bit of a larger role than last year to start the 2023 season, according to Joseph Person of The Athletic. With starting right guard Austin Corbett still recovering from an ACL repair surgery, Mays has reportedly stepped up this offseason. While his rookie year saw him block out of the backfield in short-yardage situations, Mays is in line to begin the season as a starter at right guard for Carolina.
  • The Saints are no strangers to injuries in the past few years. They are feeling it the worst this season in the wide receiving corps, where we got some recent updates from Terrin Waack of Michael Thomas‘s woes continued thanks to toe surgery that landed him on injured reserve last year. He’s “slowly but surely” working his way back but is, reportedly, “still not full-go.” Last year’s rookie sensation Chris Olave missed the end of minicamp with an inflamed Achilles tendon but is expected to be okay. The other rookie from last year, Rashid Shaheed, suffered a groin injury in organized team activities that held him out of minicamp. He’s also expected to be fine by the time camp rolls around.