2011 Season Panther Player Recap: Greg Hardy

CHARLOTTE, NC - OCTOBER 23: John Beck #12 of the Washington Redskins is sacked by Greg Hardy #76 of the Carolina Panthers during their game at Bank of America Stadium on October 23, 2011 in Charlotte, North Carolina. (Photo by Scott Halleran/Getty Images)

So far, the career of Greg Hardy has come off as a mixed review. In 2010, the Panthers fan base allowed themselves to become enchanted by 6th rounder out of Mississippi. Greg Hardy entered the training camp with a vengeance seeming intent on wining a starting job. In the first preseason game of his career, Greg Hardy would notch up two sacks and 5 tackles against the backup squad of the Ravens, outperforming starter Tyler Brayton who then went on to sit out the rest of the preseason due to injury.

As the preseason wore on there began to brew this tremendous sense that we have a special guy buried on the roster behind a veteran. Which was very typical of the John Fox era and his coaching style. A lot of Panther fans had gotten used to things like that at the time. Still when John Fox made the decision to start Tyler Brayton ahead of Greg in the regular season, a lot of us were shaking our heads and thinking, "Here we go again." Greg Hardy would seem to respond in Game 1 against the New York Giants, blocking a punt despite being regulated to Special Teams duty. John Fox still would not budge. Tyler would go on to have the worst season of his career, earning no sacks and only 22 tackles. And when John Fox left at the end of the year after a 2-14 season, Tyler Brayton's fate was sealed. Greg Hardy would get his chance to start in 2011.

How has he done? Let's look at the numbers after the jump!

Games Started Combined Tackles Single tackles Assisted Tackles Sacks Safeties Pass Defences Interceptions
16 50 38 12 4.0 1 11 None

It seems a rather underwhelming season considering how much faith we put into Greg and how we thought he would tear it up once he got his due starting time. It's one of the downsides of being a fan. Sometimes we build a guy up so much that expecting to reach the expectations we have set for him end up being unfair. He did alright last year, but he didn't knock off people's heads like everyone was expecting.

The first thing worth mentioning is that our defensive line as a whole played very badly last year. Both of our defensive tackles were rookies and Greg Hardy was in his first year starting. Add that onto Jon Beason and Thomas Davis going down and it's going to be hard for any pass rusher to get through. However, he was miles away better than Tyler Brayton and his 22 tackles in his last year, so in that respect we can consider Greg Hardy a success.

Run Defense

As James pointed out so eloquently in his article a couple of weeks ago, teams would kill us when they ran to the right side of the football field. Which makes a lot of sense to be honest. When was the last time you remember Greg Hardy making a big stop on a running back behind the line of scrimmage? It doesn't happen. Greg Hardy doesn't quite have the interior push that you need in order disrupt running lanes like if you were a strong nose tackle nor does he have a good spin move to disengage and get back to the inside to his lane if a running back is heading his way. Without either of these things, it's going to be tough to do much stop the running game once engaged with your opponent.

These things are teachable and they are very necessary if you're going to play defensive end in the NFL. There are very few players that can come into the NFL and be successful simply by being physically dominant. The good news is that Greg Hardy will have far more opportunities this year to learn them then last year's lockout shortened off season. And let's be honest, Hardy is a physical freak. It's not like he doesn't have the talent to be able to do it.

Pass Defense

In a league that is steadily moving away from the running game and passing more year by year, the most important stat here that fans look for here are sacks. At four sacks the number isn't flashy like fans thought it would be, but it's far better than that glaring zero that Brayton had the year before. However, he doesn't get away from his man on a consistent basis because he always seems to try to beat them on the outside. If you are in college against inexperienced tackles, you may be able to pull that off against people who aren't as beastly as the Kraken. However in the NFL, everyone is a beast. You can't outrun tackles like you could in college, they'll beat you to the outside every time and seal you out of the play. That's the main thing Greg has to work on. He needs to develop different moves to beat his man.

To compare him against the other DE's in the league, let's make a formula and compare him to other 4-3 DE's with at least one dominant DE on the other side. Remember, they need to both be in a 4-3 defense AND have another dominant DE. We'll say the qualification to be a dominant DE is 8 sacks, compile the data, and the output is as follows.

Team Name 1st Starter 2nd Starter
Cleveland Browns J. Sheard 8.5 sacks J. Michell 1.5 sacks
Indianapolis Colts Robert Mathis 9.5 sacks Dwight Freeney 8.5 sacks
Jacksonville Jaguars J. Mincey 8.0 sacks Math Rott 3.5 sacks
New England Patriots Andre Carter 10 sacks Mark Anderson 10 sacks
Denver Broncos Elvis Dumervil 9.5 sacks Robert Ayers 3.0 sacks
Chicago Bears Unnamed One 11.5 sacks Israel Idonije 5.0
Detroit Lions Cliff Anvil 11.0 sacks Kyle Vanden Bosce 8.0
Minnesota Vikings Jared Allen 22 sacks Brian Robinson 8.0 sacks
Carolina Panthers Charles Johnson 9.0 sacks Greg Hardy 4.0 sacks
Atlanta Falcons John Abraham 9.5 sacks Ray Edwards 3.5
New York Giants Jason Pierre Paul 16.5 sacks Justin Tuck 5.0
Philadelphia Eagles Jason Babin 18.0 sacks Trent Cole 11.0
Seattle Seahawks Chris Clemons 11.0 sacks Red Bryant: 1.0
St. Louis Rams Chris Long 11.0 sacks James Hall 6 sacks

14 out of 32 times qualified for the table. As you can see, asides from a few teams Greg Hardy finishes a little bit behind the middle of the pack. As many of these teams have shown, there is room enough on a defense for two elite defensive ends. That means the Kraken has to improve. Whether the Kraken will develop into that is up to the course of time to decide. Getting two dominant DT's would help though.

Final analysis

Greg Hardy was a 6th round pick for a reason. He is a powerful athlete that needs good coaching in order to reach his potential. With the lockout-shortened off-season last year, he wasn't able to receive much of it. So it's hard to expect the Kraken to break out and be a dominant player right off the bat. Greg Hardy didn't have an excellent year like we hyped him to have. Guess what? Our entire defense didn't either. This upcoming year will be a far better grade of what he can do as a player once he has had time to prepare and get ready for what the starters in the NFL has in store for him. He has OTA's ahead of him and a complete training camp. Hopefully the Panthers will draft a strong DT in the early rounds as well and Ron Edwards will come back strong to go cause havoc and help him break free.

I'll end the article on a positive note with a random montage video from his college days. Who knows? Maybe he reads this blog and he'll save this video to gain from it inspiration to crush people on game day. Note that all of his good plays come with him trying to beat his opponent on the outside. He's going to have to learn to do more besides that in the NFL.

Greg Hardy Highlights (Bama Game) (via kingaries08)

ATTENTION! THIS IS AN IMPORTANT PART!

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