Kuechly was as good, and as NFL ready as any player in the draft, but that doesn't mean he wont make some mistakes in his first season. Mandatory Credit: Jeremy Brevard-US PRESSWIRE
What we learned last year in watching Sean McDermott craft the defense was that he likes to move players around. For most positions there are no fixed roles, which allows him to create mismatches- however, there's always a base defense that underpins the entire scheme.
As it stands the base defense looks to include rookie Luke Kuechly at the weakside spot with either Greg Hardy or Frank Alexander as the starting defensive end, while Charles Johnson works the left tackle with James Anderson behind him. There's no doubt that 'Big Money' is the best defensive end on the Panthers, and as such should be working against the opponent's best tackle, but there is also value in pairing youth with experience.
In 2012 Luke Kuechly will make mistakes, Frank Alexander will make mistakes- it comes with the territory when you're a rookie in the NFL. However, this could be mitigated if Kuechly has the support up front from Charles Johnson at the point of attack, and conversely if Alexander can rely on the stalwart James Anderson it will aid his development also. Now before we get in a furor, I'm not saying Alexander will start just using him as an example, so we can put down the pitch forks.
More after the jump
We have precedence for this kind of move in Carolina. During the 2006 season, the first where Thomas Davis was a 16 game starter, Mike Rucker was almost exclusively played on Davis' side. As a better run stopped having Rucker on Davis' side allowed for the Panthers to give Julius Peppers the free reign to pass rush with impugnity, while OLB Na'il Diggs could sit back and clean up where needed.
Obviously far better football minds than mine will be looking at this, but there is a risk in playing all the youngsters together that could be mitigated by switching the ends. The added bonus to this is having Charles Johnson world against bigger, more plodding offensive tackles on the right side- this could allow him to generate more pressure against lesser competition, even without help from a stellar group of DTs.
We'll learn a lot more when training camp starts.