We've all heard the myriad of criticisms from countless analysts and experts (and even fans) on why the Carolina Panthers missed out on an opportunity to improve their defense by failing to draft one of the many available defensive tackles in the 2012 draft class. Ron Rivera has heard those calls, and he's tired of listening to the noise.
In an interview with Bryan Strickland from Panthers.com, Rivera candidly explained why they elected to go a different direction than the one many people - myself included - thought they should go over the 3 day draft weekend.
After the jump we'll look at a few of Rivera's quotes that hopefully explain the direction they're planning to go, and the way they view the defense as a whole heading into the start of off-season camps.
I agree that we weren't good enough there, but we weren't good enough until Week 12, when you started seeing things come together. Why? Because we had enough guys in place that finally got it and understood it. ... People can miss the point. They say, 'We were so bad against the run.' When were we bad? Early in the year, when we threw a bunch of young guys to the wolves. It seems like some people don't want to believe in what our guys are doing.
That statement speaks volumes. According to Rivera, the struggles we saw early on in the year were more a product of the defense not completely understanding what they were supposed to do than anything else, and that can totally be expected given the team was learning an entirely new defensive scheme with no off-season time with coaches save for a few time-cramped weeks of training camp. If Rivera is to be believed - And why shouldn't he be? - then we should see marked improvement along the defensive line just from their knowledge of the playbook alone.
"Everybody needs to relax and give us an opportunity to develop our players and see what we have."
Let's be real here for a moment: none of us, no matter how much we know - or in some cases, think we know - can reasonably expect to know more about the state of the defense than Rivera, who has years of experience playing and coaching defense. He also sees these players when we don't - on the practice field.
If Rivera - who sees these players every single day - thinks that we don't need a DT, then it's safe to assume that we probably don't need a DT. We have a rotation of guys who all now have a full season under their belts in Rivera's scheme, and that should help them play much better in 2012 than they did in 2011.
Rivera hasn't done anything yet to give us reason to doubt him when he says that the players are developing and that the defense is on its way to being something special. If anything, we should at least give him the benefit of the doubt that he can - with a proper off-season schedule - turn this defense into one that will stop costing us games, and start winning them.
I think we should take Rivera's advice and back away from the ledge, and provide him the opportunity to prove that we really didn't need to draft a DT in the 2012 draft, because we already have a solid group of guys on the roster hungry to make an impact in 2012 and beyond.