Panthers Depth Chart Predictions – DE

The next Panthers positional review is defensive end. Prior to All-Pro Julius Peppers recent signing of his franchise tender the depth chart at DE was anybody’s guess. With Peppers back in the fold things are a little clearer at least on one side of the equation. The remaining question is who will man the other side across from Peppers on 1st and 2nd down. Here’s the current depth chart at DE for the Panthers current roster:

LDE DT DT RDE
Brayton Peppers
Johnson Brown
Brinkley Taylor

 

As much as I want to make a bold prediction that 3rd year player Charles Johnson will unseat Tyler Brayton I’m thinking this is one of those cases where HC John Fox sticks with the more experienced player in Brayton. With that resolved the only question is whether the Panthers keep five DE’s or not. Last season they only keep four so this could be the end of Hilee Taylor and/or Casper Brinkley’s run with the Panthers. It’s hard to imagine with so many tough decisions at other positions (FB, TE, WR) that the Panthers would keep five. With that let’s go into more detail.

 

Julius Peppers – 100% chance of starting at RDE  

There is no doubt we have spent enough bytes of space on this blog about Peppers so I’m not going to go into a lot of detail. I predict Pep will start on the right side but will be moved around just as he was last season. He could potentially line up at all 4 DL spots throughout the course of the game and I don’t see that changing. My hope is that he improves on his 14.5 sacks and 51 tackles last season in a bid to prove he is worth the huge price tag is commanding.

 

Brayton_sacks_raider_qb_medium
Tyler Brayton
- 70% chance of starting at LDE

As stated earlier I’m going with the safe bet that Brayton sticks one more season in Carolina as the starter. I also think there is a small chance (5%) that he actually gets cut for salary cap reasons. This might happen if the Panthers first and foremost feel another player can fill his role and second, if they need some salary cap space after being unable to sign Peppers long term to reduce his cap hit. More than likely though Brayton remains in the Panthers plans due to his versatility to play DE and DT and the fact he is a better run stopper. Mechanics wise Brayton plays the stretch play well and keeps the play turned inside. He can also hold his ground on those off-tackles runs though he does struggle to get off well-made blocks. Stat-wise I don’t see him improving on his 40 tackles and 4.5 sacks from last season as I expect his playing time to drop with the development of the younger players below him on the depth chart.

 

Charles Johnson – 20% chance of starting at LDE; 100% chance to make the roster

 This should be a big season for Johnson as he looks to show he has skills to be an every down DE in this league. His 6.5 sacks and 40 tackles last season as a back-up are impressive and the word is he has worked on his strength and size in the off-season. My hope is Johnson develops into a Mike Rucker type of DE who excels first as a run stopper but can also get after the QB. Though I only give an outside chance of him to start game one in 2009 I think that he will be a starter next year if not later this season.

 

Everette Brown – 10% Chance of Starting a LDE; 100% chance to make the roster

The Panther shave the luxury of letting the rookie Brown soak up the newness of the NFL and the Panthers scheme without throwing him in the fire. I have no doubt in future seasons he will be a starter for this team but I only see an outside chance of it happening right away. Brown will instead be the situational pass rusher similar to that of Hilee Taylor last season though I see Brown getting on the field more. The only question is whether he will stick to his more natural right side or play the left side as he did recently during OTA’s. Given the positive comments from RT Jeff Otah from OTA’s about Browns speed and strength he might end up the first pass rusher off the bench and line-up across from Pep. This the dream scenario for Panther fans in my opinion as it means we’ve speed coming of the edge from both sides.

 

Hilee Tayor – 10% Chance of making the roster

In 10 games last season Taylor registered 4 tackles and a sack which doesn’t sound too impressive but you have to remember he was a situational pass rusher who only got on the field a handful of plays a game if that. I thought Taylor played well as he got into the backfield a good bit but many times was a step late in getting the sack. In 2009 the addition of Everette Brown means Taylor days may be numbered. Given he doesn’t qualify for the practice squad I think Taylor at best has an outside chance of sticking.

 

Casper Brinkley – 5% chance of making the roster; 20% chance of making the PS

I believe Brinkley is still eligible for the PS and that is his best chance at this point in my view. Brinkley didn’t leave much of an impression last preseason so he really needs to step it up if he is going to stay in the league. If he plays well on special teams I think there is an outside chance the Panthers to use a roster spot on him but I wouldn’t bet on those odds.

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