Marty Hurney has done many things right as the GM for the Carolina Panthers, but one area that he let the team down in is at the defensive tackle position. I'm of the opinion that a team should regularly and consistently draft players for the line on both sides of the ball because of the propensity for injury at the position. While the Carolina Panthers did address the offensive line, they have not been adequately supporting the opposite side of the ball to ensure there would always be an available body.
We're talking about this today in the wake of the Ron Edwards injury. Sure, it's just bad luck... but at what point does a team start to learn from it's mistakes at one position? This figures to be yet another year where the Panthers are trolling the waiver list and picking up UDFAs in the hopes they can patch a defensive line together. Rookie Sione Fua just became of vital importance because of Edwards injury, and will likely be thrust into a starting role he's not quite ready for, that it unless the Panthers make a signing.
More after the jump
The real root of this problem comes in drafting. Since Hurney became GM in 2002 the Panthers have selected only 5 defensive tackles:
- Sione Fua
Before Ron Rivera arrived Hurney took only three DTs in eight NFL drafts, and never invested a pick above the third round on the position. On the surface this would be fine if not for injury, but in reality look what Hurney did for the offensive side of the ball.
To even up the comparison we'll include defensive ends with the tackles and see that Hurney took 13 defensive line players since 2002, but remember.... 8 of these players were defensive ends.
On offense, Hurney has selected 16 offensive line players in the same timespan, and unlike the huge skew of ends over tackles on defense, we've seen only 5 players who were true tackles. The majority were guards and centers, the guys who tend to get banged up the most.
Simply put, there wasn't enough care taken with the DT position. Only having three DTs before this year's draft is what put us in this position now. I'll give Hurney all the credit in the world for the myriad great decisions he's made as GM, but failing to ensure there was proper DT depth was a grievous error. The Panthers will likely need to spend the next 2-3 drafts taking numerous DTs to ensure adequate talent at the position and get the DL to the same place the OL is now, more talent than they know what to do with.