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Blueprint For A New 21st Century Panthers Combo Defense

ERL's great post yesterday about how many times the Panther might use a 3-4 defense each game this season got me thinking about an idea I've kicked around in my mind for a over a year now, about a new Combo defense for the 21st century, to counter the increased passing in today's game. Teams are now forced to play a nickle defense 50-60% of the time

The Panthers have actually drafted to counter this problem in an innovative way the last few years, by drafting CB's (Godfrey, Martin, and Pugh) to play their SS and FS positions. In this way the Panthers aren't at a disadvantage when their S's have cover WR's, in 4 or even 5 WR sets.

What I've conjured up is a highly adaptable Combo defense, that can instantly morph from a 4-3 into a 3-4, or even a 3-3-5 defense, without tipping off the offense with player substitutions. Here are ruffly the skills and measureables that would be required for each position (a backup with the same type skills would also be needed for each position).

Player Requirements: (after the jump)

"Big" DE - height 6-2 to 6-7, weight 275-285, 40 time 4.70 to 4.85, 10 yard split 1.60 to 1.68, or better numbers. A good run stopper, who's more of a power than a speed pass rusher. Example - Charles Johnson.

NT - height 6-0 to 6-5, weight 320-350, 40 time 5.15 to 5.40, 10 yard split 1.75 to 1.82, or better numbers. A big wide-body, space-eating, run stopper, and any pass rush is a bonus. Example - Casey Hampton (Steelers).

DT - height 6-2 to 6-5, weight 290-310, 40 time 4.80 to 5.00, 10 yard split 1.60 to 1.72, or better numbers. A strong inside pass rusher, who can blow up running plays in the backfield, stop the run, and shift to 3-4 DE. Example - Ndamukong Suh (Lions), or smaller like the Panthers Derek Landri.

"Small" DE/3-4 OLB - height 6-2 to 6-6, weight 255-270, 40 time 4.60 to 4.70, 10 yard split 1.52 to 1.65, or better numbers. A speed rusher, who can still defend the run, but with the quick reflexes to drop back as a 3-4 OLB. Example - John Abraham (Falcons).

SLB/3-4 ILB - height 6-0 to 6-5, weight 240-260, 40 time 4.4o to 4.60, 10 yard split 1.50 to 1.65, or better numbers. A OLB who's as big as a small DE, who can blitz, and can also get by in coverage, who can shift to a 3-4 ILB when the defense shifts. Example - UDFA Mario Harvey (5-10 7/8, 257, 4.43-40) of Marshall.

MLB - height 6-0 to 6-4, weight 240-250, 40 time 4.40 to 4.60, 10 yard split 1.50 to 1.60, or better numbers. A good size MLB, who can blitz, stuff the run, shead blockers, and cover TE's and RB's over the middle, Example - Patrick Willis.

WLB/SS - height 6-0 to 6-2, weight 230-240, 40 time 4.35 to 4.50, 10 yard split 1.48 to 1.56, or better numbers. Probably the hardest player to find, a SS who can play OLB, who's got the speed to blitz the QB, and be a good pass defender. Example - S-Taylor Mayes (6-3, 230, 4.31-40, 1.45-10) of the 49ers, and the Panthers Thomas Davis.

SS - height 5-11 to 6-3, weight 200-215, 40 time 4.40 to 4.50, 10 yard split 1.48 to 1.55, or better numbers. A CB who plays safety, who can cover a WR in multiple WR sets. Example - Panthers Charles Godfrey.

FS - height 5-11 to 6-3, weight 200-210, 40 time 4.35 to 4.45, 10 yard split, or better numbers. A CB playing FS who can cover a WR in multiple WR sets. Example - Panthers Sherrod Martin.

#1 CB - height 5-10 to 6-2, weight 190-205, 40 time 4.30 to 4.45, 10 yard split 1.45 to 1.54, or better numbers. The teams best shutdown CB, covering the other teams to WR each week. Example - Nnamdi Asomugha (Raiders).

#2 CB - height 5-10 to 6-2, weight 185-200, 40 time 4.30 to 4.45, 10 yard split 1.45 to 1,54, or better numbers, The other starting CB, usually covering the smaller WR. Example - Antonio Cromartie (Jets).

"Nickle" DB - height 5-9 to 6-2, 180-205, 40 time 4.38 to 4.48, 10 yard split, or better numbers. The first DB off the bench in 5 or 6 DB skeems. Example -Panthers Captain Munnerlyn.

How the Panthers might look in this defense:

"Big" DE - re-sign Charles Johnson and Greg Hardy

NT - Sione Fua, and sign UDFA Anthony Gray (5-11 7/8, 330, 5.17-40)

DT - Terrell McClain, and re-sign Derek Landri

"Small" DE - Everrette Brown, Eric Norwood, and Hilee Taylor

SLB - re-sign James Anderson or a better free agent fit, Jason Williams, and sign UDFA Mario Harvey (5-10 7/8, 257, 4.43-40)

MLB - Jon Beason, and Dan Connor

WLB - re-sign Thomas Davis, and hope Josh Barrett (6-2, 223, 4.34-40, 1.50-10) is cut by the Patriots, or Jameson Konz (6-3 1/2, 234, 4.38-40, 46 inch vertical) is cut by the Seahawks

SS - Charles Godfrey, sign UDFA's Keanemana "Manny" Silva (6-0 3/4, 206, 4.41-40, 23 bench reps, 40 inch vertical) of Hawaii, and Ron Parker (5-11 3/4, 206, 4.34-40, 1.54-10)

FS - Sherrod Martin and Jordan Pugh

#1 CB - Chris Gamble, C. J. Wilson, and R. J. Stanford

#2 CB - whoever is signed to replace Marshall, and Brandon Hogan

Nickle DB - Captain Munnerlyn,and  Robert McClain

The Panthers really aren't in the best position to try this this season, but free agent signings and next years draft, they could be ready to use it in 2012. However, the Panthers will have first claim on any players who are cut through the first 4 regular season games, so some needs might be filled by veterans who are cut.

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