What Went Wrong With the Panthers Run Defense in 2011?

The Carolina Panthers' defense had two Achilles heels in 2011, which led to such a lackluster unit; the first was the lack of ability and tackling from the defensive backs, while the second was the defensive line who were unable to generate a reliable pass rush, and unable to stop the run.

It will take a few more weeks for the advanced statisticians to get us detailed metrics on each player on the defensive line, but what we know already is where the glaring weakness is in stopping the run. As it stands we have run defense stats based on where our opponents got their gains, courtesy of Football Outsiders.

Left end (ROLB reponsibility): 3.93 YPC, 10th in the NFL

Left tackle (Charles Johnson responsibility): 3.96 YPC, 13th in the NFL

Mid/Guard (NT/DT responsibility): 4.53 YPC, 31st in the NFL

Right tackle (Greg Hardy responsibility): 5.62 YPC, 32nd in the NFL

Right end (James Anderson responsibility): 5.63 YPC, 32nd in the NFL

This paints a clear picture of where the weaknesses were for the Panthers in stopping the run in 2011, and what needs to be worked on.

More after the jump

The common belief was that it was up the gut where the Panthers were getting demolished this season, however the reality was it was the right edge where Carolina really failed. In the above list I only singled out players who started over 75% of games at their position, hence the changes at DT and ROLB. Also, while it is the outside linebacker's responsibility to make a play run to the outside, it's also incumbent upon the DE to help seal the edge, and the CB to help as needed.

What we see is that Greg Hardy really let down the right side on the line on running downs. This was coupled with Anderson who was a tackling machine when players got near him, however he did not close quickly enough on running downs which routinely allowed players to get to the second level.

In terms of the mid runs we have major room to make up, 31st in the NFL is abysmal, but we'll look at that further when we can see how Terrell McClain, Sione Fua, Andre Neblett, Jason Shirley and Frank Kearse all did individually, that will happen in time.

What is very encouraging though is to see what a force Charles Johnson was on his side. Both in terms of runs directed at him, and those which came in his vicinity he was able to make plays on ball carriers. This should help allay the fears of some who feel he took a step back when looking at his sack totals.

As the offseason moves on we'll look further into this major concern for the Panthers, but I thought it would be interesting to see this initial metric on our run stopping issues and what we can do to fix them moving forward.

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