Whatever happened to Chris Gamble?

I’m not sure if Cincinnati rookies Andy Dalton and A.J. Green are going to be the NFL’s next great quarterback and receiver or if Carolina cornerback Chris Gamble is totally washed up.

GambleGambleI’m leaning toward the latter after watching Gamble get beat badly twice by Green in Carolina's 24-13 loss in Thursday night’s exhibition game. It got so bad that Cincinnati broadcaster Anthony Munoz joked that Gamble was seen being escorted to the locker room to have aloe applied to his burns.

I’m starting to think the Panthers have a big problem on their hands. It actually might have first surfaced last season, when former coach John Fox took Gamble’s starting job away. Fox may have been going through a catastrophic season, but the man always has known what he’s doing when it comes to defense. The Panthers shrugged it off as a conflict with Fox and decided to keep Gamble while not really addressing cornerback early in the draft or free agency.

Green first beat Gamble on a deep ball in the first quarter. Gamble caught a break when officials reviewed the play and decided that Green didn’t make the catch in bounds, but it was still worrisome because the receiver got open with ease.

Gamble wasn’t nearly as lucky the next time around. Dalton threw deep for Green in the second quarter and the rookie caught the pass easily in the end zone. It doesn’t get much worse than that, and I’m wondering what the Panthers are going to do.

For a lot of years, Gamble was a pretty good cornerback, but he was never great. Last season and this preseason have shown that he might be in sharp decline.

Gamble is 28 and scheduled to make $6.24 million in base salary and count $9.24 million against the salary cap. Those are the kind of numbers you associate with a No. 1 cornerback. Gamble doesn’t look like a No. 1 cornerback anymore.

Captain Munnerlyn is the other starting cornerback and he’s never going to be a No. 1 guy. In fact, he’d be a No. 3 or 4 on a lot of other teams. Beyond Munnerlyn, the Panthers don’t have much else at cornerback.

The Panthers may have to make a move to get some help at cornerback before the regular season starts. Maybe that comes off the waiver wire or maybe via trade. The Panthers have $8 million in salary-cap room and they also might want to add some help at defensive tackle (yeah, I know they got Kentwan Balmer off waivers, but is he really the answer?) and receiver. But cornerback seems to have moved to the top of the shopping list.

If the Panthers go into the regular season with Gamble as their top cornerback and he continues to play like he did Thursday night, they’re going to have major problems.