Panthers' defensive tackle Star Lotulelei has a broken foot and is out for Saturday night's game with the Seahawks, reports Ian Rapoport. The second-year pro had an up and down sophomore season as he started it out with a nagging ankle injury, but he'd come on strong of late, registering two sacks and seven tackles in Carolina's clinching win over the Falcons and four tackles in the Panthers win over the Cardinals last week.
As Cat Scratch Reader's James Dator points out,
Lotulelei missed a portion of the 2014 season due to injury, and unsurprisingly the Panthers struggled without him in the middle. Veteran Colin Cole will fill the void, and while he's able to be a semi-decent run stopped, he lacks Lotulelei's speed and power that not only helps collapse the pocket, but stuff runs in the backfield.
Defensive tackle isn't a flashy position, but losing Star could be the worst possible defensive injury the Panthers could sustain ahead of their game against the Seattle Seahawks in the divisional playoff round. Their chances hinge on the ability to stop running back Marshawn Lynch, who's known for his direct running style. Added pressure will be placed on linebacker Luke Kuechly to hold the middle, but this comes at the expense of being able to keep him in coverage, or more importantly spy quarterback Russell Wilson.
This news comes one day after the Seahawks announced DT Jordan Hill was headed to the I.R.. It's likely the Lotulelei loss is more impactful to the Carolina defense as a whole.