The Panthers' situation at DT has been rendered dire by the malevolent purging, and front office consternation. Hopelessly, the Front Office has attempted to plug these holes with inexperienced players, and due to the relative disparity that has plagued the Panther's DT's, the defense surrendered oodles of yards to opposing Running Backs in 2011. However, there remains hope that potential talent lies in the youth on the Panthers' Defensive Line.
picture via media2.newsobserver.com
One such player was Andre Neblett. Neblett (6'0 295 lbs.) is a second year player out of Temple, where he spent four seasons under the tutelage of Al Golden. During his college career, Neblett started 45 games in his career, and was a 3 Time All MAC player. Neblett would go on to sign with the Panthers as an Undrafted Free Agent on April 30, 2010.
Neblett would go onto impress the coaching staff in Training Camp, and would be the only UDFA to make the opening day roster. While the rest of the Panthers floundered during the 2010 season, Neblett would make strides throughout the year, finishing the season with 18 Tackles and 1 QB Pressure in 7 games of action, with 1 Start. Neblett finished the season showing promise, and solid abilities for a rookie.
This past season, Neblett remained under the radar, failing to impress Coach Rivera and his staff, and did not receive significant playing time until Week 8; Even being deactivated for 6 Weeks this past season. However, with Rookies, Sione Fua and Terrell McClain approaching their respective rookie walls, the coaching staff promoted Neblett into the regular rotation. Neblett exhibited strength and good technique as he held his own at the UT position, occasionally rotating into NT when the need arose. In only a matter of weeks, Neblett proved himself the most capable DT on the Panthers' roster, outshining McClain, and Fua, who would be placed on IR. Andre made his first start in Week 13 against Tampa Bay, after Fua sustained an injury during pre-game warmups. During his four starts in 2011, Neblett would rack up 10 Tackles, 1 Sack, and 1 Fumble Recovery, finishing the season with 23 Tackles, 2.5 Sacks, and 2 Fumbles Recovered. Statistically, Neblett's best games occurred against Tennessee (5 Tackles, 2 Solo, 1 Sack) and Atlanta (5 Tackles, 3 Solo). And, while correlation may not prove causation...
When Neblett started the game, The Panthers record was 3-1.
Neblett's hard work and determination this season payed off, with possibly no other player leaving as lasting an impression as Neblett. With his 3rd Year looming, Neblett may be poised to make another leap, and cement himself in the starting lineup going into the future. Neblett has nice agility for a big man, as seen on his two fumble recoveries, and his ability to rush the passer is substantially farther ahead than the other DT's on the Panthers' Roster. Furthermore Neblett exhibits nice power while pushing the pocket, and proper awareness in the run game, especially disciplined in gap control, a measure younger DT's tend to struggle with. Neblett's visible maturity on the field has helped maintain his gap in the run game, a measure that forces the RB to bounce it outside (hopefully) into the grasp of the LB's or another D-Lineman.
Entering Training Camp this offseason, Neblett has more than demonstrated that he is one of the more talented players on the Panthers' Defensive Line, and his play has warranted a starting spot at DT going into next season. Even if the Panthers select a Defensive Tackle in the early goings of the 2012 NFL Draft, it is more than likely that the seasoned Neblett is the better/safer start than a rookie; no matter how touted. Going into the future, it looks as if the Panthers are on their way to collecting a solid nucleus of players on the defensive line, headlined by the potential prowess of Andre Neblett.
via a0.twimg.com (Andre Neblett: The younger days)