Yesterday I looked at the repercussions through the organization if the Panthers selected QB Cam Newton. You can read that piece here. Today I'm continuing this series looking at Alabama defensive tackle Marcell Dareus and highlighting what it could mean to the organization by bringing him into the fold.
1. A commitment to defense, above all else
There's little mystery over who JR wants his organization modeled after- the Pittsburgh Steelers. This fact has been true since the franchise first came into existence. However, the closest the Panthers ever came to having a dominant, all consuming defense was in 2003 when the defensive line of Peppers/Buckner/Jenkins/Rucker was easily considered the finest 4-3 line in the NFL. With the retirement of Buckner and trading of Jenkins the DL lost it's bite, and never gained it back.
Dareus would be the first step in establishing DL dominance again by becoming a more athletic version of Kris Jenkins; that alone is a scary prospect.
More after the jump...
2. Comfort zone = Gone
A quarterback's comfort zone is his pocket, and a dominant DT is the first step in ruining that comfort zone. At 328 lbs with the speed and power he possesses Dareus would be able to quickly collapse the pocket and flush QBs into the open field. With the exception of Josh Freeman, neither Drew Brees nor Matt Ryan show an affinity to deal well with being pushed out of their pocket. As such, he has the opportunity to greatly impact the offense of opposing teams by just driving the pile back and allowing others to make plays.
On the other side of the coin an RB's comfort zone is a gap. Dareus was the best gap filler in college football last year and possesses a rare talent to hold his own against double teams on a regular basis. When you combine this ability with Jon Beason at MLB you have a recipe to make opposing running backs feel very claustrophobic.
3. Flexibility, and defensive creativity
While last year's #2 overall pick Ndamukong Suh may be a much better pass rusher, Marcell Dareus is the more complete defensive tackle and he has an unprecedented ability to move between tackle positions. He played NT in a 3-4 scheme at Alabama, he has the speed of a 3-technique pass rusher in a 4-3 and can play 5-technique at the level of B.J. Raji. Combine these three abilities with a near unstoppable motor and you have a player than Ron Rivera and Sean McDermott can move all around the DL creating terrible mismatch problems wherever Dareus is lined up.
4. Everything opens up for the DEs
Charles Johnson, Greg Hardy and Everette Brown had their successes last year in spite of the offensive line, not because of it. Adding Marcell Dareus in to anchor the middle not only physically takes up space, but becomes a source of mental confusion for offenses.
Dareus can collapse the pocket easily (as mentioned in point 1) but when you combine that ability with Johnson's power off the edge and Hardy/Brown's speed you have a dangerous pass rush that is multi faceted, and multi dimensional. Essentially Dareus has the ability to make everyone around him better, and when you already have a 10 sack guy at DE this is a scary prospect.
5. The Panthers want to win right now
Finally, drafting Marcell Dareus would be a sign that the Carolina Panthers are done with sub .500 seasons and want to do everything they can to return to the right side of the win column as quickly as possible. There is no player in this draft who offers a more immediate impact to the team that drafts his as Marcell Dareus.
There's very little learning curve to DT in the NFL compared to other positions, and if you happened to see Dareus' special on ESPN's Sport Science you'll know that his measurables show that he is ready to go at the next level. The fastest way to make the Panthers a winner again is to get that DL sured up ASAP and find a veteran QB, you can only solve one of these through the draft and the Panthers solve it by taking Dareus.
Tomorrow I'll continue this series as I return to the QB position to look at what Blaine Gabbert brings to the table.