As promised here is a look at what I believe our defense will do, and who will be seeing the field for a defense that last year finished 28th according to Herm Edwards yesterday on ESPN.
I'll first start out in the trenches...before the draft a lot of people were expecting us to take a defensive lineman in the draft, including me. I was fully prepared to take Fletcher Cox, who went to the Eagles a few picks later. However, RR has high expectations for our defensive line. I believe Charles Johnson will do his thing, and get double digit sacks. Last year had to be tough for him, being the "by far best" DL on the team. He fought thru double teams for the majority of most games in the season. Our Frank Alexander pick seemed unpopular when it happened. However, the more I read and watch on him he is a good player with a high motor that can get penetration. He was Big-12 co-defensive player of the year...quite an accomplishment in that conference. I always have high expectations for Hardy coming into camp...but he keeps disappointing me. I'm hoping if he can come off the bench he can be a great pass rusher, or even move inside since he looks to be a big 300 lbs. Thomas Keiser was quite a surprise last season, and I hope he can build on that.
Our DTs struggled badly early last season. Losing Ron Edwards devastated me last season...he was supposed to be the older guy/mentor to our young DTs. He is also an established presence inside, and I can't wait for him to take the field in that Panthers Blue. I expect to have Andre Neblett as our other DT opposite of RE. When he came in he provided a spark to our defensive line, and when you watch him play he makes plays. McClain and Fua both disappointed me last year...yes, I know they were thrown to the wolves....but they were consistently driven backwards. Even with that said, I believe they was some sort of stat thrown on this website a couple months ago about how many big plays were given up when they were in, and it wasn't as bad as I was expecting. Fua has the potential to be a good run stopper, and McClain has the potential to be a good pass rusher, I hope they learned from last year and Rivera seems to have faith in them. They should be better being in a rotation instead of the primary guys. Frank Kearse should also see time in the rotation based on his above average performance in our DT rotation last season.
The Other Guys
I hate saying the other guys because our linebackers are amazing!!! James Anderson will continue to build on establishing himself as one of the better linebackers in the league. Luck Kuechly's highlights are amazing!!! The kid is a ball hawking linebacker that can straight smash a dude! That's hard to find! I'm also hoping with those 3 linebackers as our starters we prolong the career of TD, the man is a beast when he is on the field! He could be a great pass rusher in McDermott's defense and I Ron Rivera can get the best out of our LBs. I also like what Applewhite did for is last year, and getting Jordan Senn back is just gravy on the mashed potatoes. Don't let me forget ST Ace Kenny Olatolu...he should be great for our STs.
Much Improved Secondary
Chris Gamble has returned to form...the only question is who will start opposite of him. Josh Norman is the guy I expect to step up and take that job! There was just another FanPost about Josh Norman that you should definitely read and watch the videos for. I also read that he was covering Smitty at OTAs, and doing a great job for a rookie! The kid has the potential to be a great CB in this league! Hogan is abother guy I'm expecting a lot out of...I've read he would have been picked mid-late 2nd round if not for the off the field issues! Hopefully he grows...and Captain could slip back into the slot where he thrives. That would be a dynamic 1-2-3-4 punch. Also, if you include Darius Butler...we have depth in the secondary like never before!
The safety issue does worry me however. Godfrey is more than capable of being a good safety. Sherrod Marting regressed, but I'm hoping with the additions of a couple corners and our LBs he can return to form of his rookie year (because 82 out of 88 in tackling efficiency for safeties does not cut it). If he doesn't his job could be in jeopardy because Nakamura is getting his first real chance to start in this league after being a backup to All-Everything Ed Reed. Who knows what he could bring to our secondary, he was a ST monster in BAL. Reggie Smith rounds out our safety rotation, but Godfrey should blow him out of the water in talent.
Hopefully we can put another great defense on the field! With the exception of last year, the Panthers have always fielded a great defense! Let me know what you think!