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Panthers game changing offseason moves. In part one I described the release of long time Panther QB Jake Delhomme and the resulting ascension of back-up Matt Moore. The second feature looked at the departure of DE Julius Peppers and the potential impact on the Panther defense. The 3rd installment discussed the changes with special teams and the most recent 4th edition looked at the WR position since the release of Muhsin Muhammad
This feature will flush out the Panthers wholesale changes at Defensive Tackle. The 2009 season was not kind to Panther starters at DT. The loss of DT Maake Kemoeatu left a gap that took about six games to adequately fill. The Panthers traded for Louis Leonard to fill his spot and he lasted one game for landing on IR too. Oh, and rookie 4th rounder Corvey Irvin went on IR with a knee injury in training camp.
Though starter Damione Lewis remained healthy enough for 16 starts his production dropped off dramatically without the spacer-eater Kemo next to him. Then this past March the Panthers released both Lewis and Kemoeatu, leaving the recently acquired Leonard and Tank Tyler the the defacto starters. Tyler comes with a local fan base willing to give him time to shine since he's not bringing a loaded professional resume to the table. Both Leonard and Tyler are coming from teams that switched defenses from a 4-3 to a 3-4 (Cleveland & KC), and both players were deemed unable to make the switch. The Panthers give them the perfect opportunity to redeem themselves and fulfill lost promises.
The remaining challengers to the starting jobs is 3rd year high motor guy Nick Hayden and the rookie IR casualty Corvey Irvin. Hayden is a blue-collar, country-boy type who gives everything he has but is simply limited physically against All-Pro talent. Irvin is simply an unknown since he spent his rookie season rehabbing his knee. He seems to have the physical tools, good strength and after a season of watching has to be highly motivated to get his career launched for real this time.
...more after the jump...
So the Panthers have two new starters at DT and we really can only guess as to who the new starters are. We appear to have three or four talented but unproven players to rotate in and out. The optimist in me wants to refer back to 2008 when we revamped our o-line and they gelled quickly. The result was a return of the Panthers running game. Will the revamping of the d-line in 2010 have a similar result. Will it harken us back to the d-lines of 2003? That might be expecting a bit much, after all that line could get pressure from all directions with just its front four.
It was a bold move by the Panthers to release the experienced veterans and pin their hopes on unproven, but talented players. I think you will agree it was a key offseason game changing move.
Let's end with a contest:
Who can be the first to name the four pictured Panther DT's in order below:
(Yes, I know 2 of them are wearing #93)