Finally the lockout had ended, meaning players could get to team facilities and teams could begin molding their rosters to begin the 2011-2012 season. With a new defensive minded, former NFL Linebacker for a head coach, all of the Panthers' linebackers had to be excited. That excitement of getting back to work with his teammates and new coaching staff changed quickly for Panthers backup MLB Dan Connor. Rumors had swirled on a late July night that Dan Connor could possibly be used as bait in a trade to the Chicago Bears for TE Greg Olsen. As it turned out, Connor was never traded to the Bears, then not to the Eagles and went on to play in 15 games for the Carolina Panthers.
Dan Connor's Season Statistics:
|2011 - Dan Connor||15||0||0||0||0||0||52||21||73|
These numbers above make the 2011-12 season the best Dan Connor has ever had in terms of total tackles. However, they pale in comparison to what another Panther MLB is capable of; that man is Jon Beason. It seems unfair to compare the two, as Connor just doesn't have the sideline-to-sideline range of Beason nor the insticts, but few do. That doesn't make Connor a bad MLB though, it just makes him less than elite.
What Connor did offer to the Panthers this past season was consistency. Ron Rivera and Co. knew that with Connor on the field they would be getting a pretty stout run-defender. That is Connor's specialty, and why he was a 2-down linebacker for most of the season. In nickel situations, players who could cover more field were sent out to be part of the 11 defensive men. The LB's who played in Connor's place included James Anderson, Jordan Senn, Omar Gaither, and Thomas Williams. The spelling during pass plays afforded Dan Connor some rest, to get back out there and face blockers consistently (FYI, Panthers' DT's weren't very good at occupying space).
No Dan, don't get too down on yourself. You did a pretty solid job of being the man in the middle... of one giant mess called the Carolina Panthers defense. It wasn't a pretty sight for many players that played on that side of the ball for the Panthers. Dan held his own for the most part with his responsibility in the run game. Still, Connor may have seen his last days in the Blue and Black. It is widely believed that #55 Dan Connor will leave the Panthers via Free Agency in the coming months. The Panthers are hurting for cap space, Jon Beason is expected to return, and Dan Connor apparently wants a starting job elsewhere. Can you blame him?
All in all though, Dan Connor has been good insurance for the Carolina Panthers since being a top-75 draft pick out of Penn State in 2008. Over the years there have been multiple trade rumors involving him, but the Panthers were never willing to give him up. That has to mean something about what they think of his talents. Personally, I see Connor fitting a 3-4 scheme, as one of the 2 inside backers, much better than in the 4-3 because of his lack of coverage skills (1 Pass Deflected, 0 INT's in 19 starts) and willingness to get rough in the trenches. If the Panthers do lose Connor to another team in Free Agency, don't fret too much. For the draft junkies out there, losing him may be a good thing, because depending on what the Panthers do in Free Agency they could get a decent coupe for the 2013 draft; a compensatory pick. A pick the Panthers were never willing to trade Dan Connor for.