By David Boclair
Rashaan Gaulden hardly was out of sight during his first NFL season.
The Independence High School graduate played 14 games as a reserve for the Carolina Panthers. He made 12 tackles and broke up one pass on defense and added another four stops on special teams.
Yet somehow the 6-foot, 200-pound safety was out of mind for many when preparation for the 2019 season began recently. Panthers general manager Marty Hurney did his best to rectify that last week during an appearance on Charlotte sports talk radio station WFNZ-AM 610.
“I think the guy everybody is forgetting is Rashaan Gaulden,” Hurney said, according to 247Sports.com. “This is the time of year we love to focus on the 2019 Draft. All the hype, everybody gets excited about it. I do too, everybody does. The guys who are really gonna help us and that we’re counting on (are) those guys from the 2018 Draft that have had a year to develop.”
Monday, Hurney showed he wasn’t just offering lip service in regard to Gaulden, a third-round pick (85th overall) out of Tennessee in 2018.
Carolina waived two players, one of them veteran safety Da’Norris Searcy, which immediately created opportunity for Gaulden, who will be given the opportunity to compete for the starting spot opposite Eric Reid. As of now, the Panthers have three safeties on their roster.
“I think that Rashaan Gaulden has the skillset to compete as our starting free safety. He’s very athletic,” Hurney said during his radio appearance. “We knew he was gonna be a (project) when we drafted him in the third round because he played mostly nickel at Tennessee. … He did some good things last season]. I think we feel good about him.”
Their actions certainly suggest as much.
Photo from Getty Images.