With Graham Gano ailing, Panthers sign kicker Chandler Catanzaro as insurance

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<a class="link rapid-noclick-resp" href="/nhl/teams/fla" data-ylk="slk:Panthers">Panthers</a> kicker <a class="link rapid-noclick-resp" href="/nfl/players/9526/" data-ylk="slk:Graham Gano">Graham Gano</a> is at risk of missing his Week 14 game against the Browns with a left knee injury. (AP)
Panthers kicker Graham Gano is at risk of missing his Week 14 game against the Browns with a left knee injury. (AP)

Graham Gano’s left knee injury appears to be serious, as the Carolina Panthers signed Chandler Catanzaro as insurance for the Pro Bowler kicker.

NFL.com’s Ian Rapoport reported that Gano won’t play in Sunday’s game against the Cleveland Browns, although the injury does not appear to be long-term. To clear room for Catanzaro on the active roster, the Panthers moved guard Amini Silatolu (knee) to the injured reserve.

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The injury to Gano’s plant leg first appeared on the Panthers’ injury report last Friday but he was perfect on his lone field goal and two PATs. Gano was a full participant in Wednesday’s practice as well but was limited on Thursday and is currently listed as questionable.

With the Panthers a half game out of the final wild card spot, the team wants to take no risks as they close the season against the Browns, New Orleans Saints, Atlanta Falcons and Saints again.

Gano’s impact on the Panthers

Since joining the team in 2012, Gano has been one of the league’s most consistent kickers. Gano paced the NFL last year by making 96.7 percent of his kicks and is 14-for-16 this season. Although he saw streaks of 41 straight field goals at home and 34 field goals under 50 yards broken, he also set a franchise record with a 63-yard field goal to beat the New York Giants.

Gano also has been among the best kickers at picking up touchbacks on kickoffs, ranking fifth in the league with 47 touchbacks and seventh with a 75.8 percent touchback rate.

Catanzaro, who went to college at nearby Clemson University, began the season with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers but was released after missing a pair of field goals in a loss to the Washington Redskins in Week 10. Overall he’s 11-for-15 on field goals — although just 1-for-4 beyond 40 yards — and 23-for-27 on PATs.

What are the Panthers’ backup options?

The Panthers had a pair of in-house kicking options before bringing in Cantazaro, although one comes from an unlikely source. Of course, there is punter Michael Palardy, who ranks sixth in the league in average punt distance, but then there is 2018 first-round pick DJ Moore.

A speedy wide receiver, Moore may not strike many as a kicker, but he was a placekicker as a freshman at Imhotep Charter in North Philadelphia. According to the Charlotte Observer’s Jourdan Rodrigue, he continued to kick field goals and point-after attempts even after he scored once he started playing offense as well as a sophomore.

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