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Struggling Bene' Benwikere waived by Panthers

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The cornerback-needy Panthers have waived starter Bene' Benwikere.

In a stunning move, the Panthers leave themselves with a cornerback depth chart almost entirely devoid of experience. Rookie James Bradberry, who was supposed to shadow Julio Jones last weekend before exiting the game early with a toe injury, now seems to be the unquestioned leader at the position.

Third-round pick Daryl Worley also will likely see an increased role in the wake of Friday's decision. According to the Charlotte Observer, a third rookie corner, Zack Sanchez, was elevated from the practice squad. Sanchez's agent, Ken Sarnoff, confirmed the move on Twitter.

The troubling optics of Jones' 300-yard game against the Panthers last weekend apparently provided enough motivation for a complete shakeup. It would not have been surprising to see the 25-year-old bumped down a notch anyway in the wake of last week's disaster, though Carolina seems more content moving on entirely. Coach Ron Rivera said earlier in the week that Benwikere was in an open competition for his spot.

Interestingly enough, Benwikere admitted to having some conditioning issues Sunday. He said that the Falcons would take Jones out of the game and ask whichever receiver replaced him to run a deep route against Benwikere. Then, they would put Jones back in and run the same thing, allowing the All-Pro receiver to get a step on the tired cornerback.

"I kind of put that on film," Benwikere told the Observer. "So obviously they're going to come out, they're going to run a deep ball and then they're going to send another receiver in to run another deep ball. And then they're going to have their star in and throw to their star."

As surprising as the decision was, this is not entirely outside of the box for general manager Dave Gettleman. Since his first season in Carolina, conviction has served him well even if that meant almost completely dismantling a secondary that brought the team to the Super Bowl a season ago.

Benwikere, a fifth-round pick in 2014, should not be out of work long. With the steep demand for functional cornerbacks hitting a fevered pitch this time of the season, it would not be surprising to see him snapped up on waivers.

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