I'm out, it's been real
The Panthers begin the 2013 season without the greatest defensive back in their short history...Chris Gamble. Still, without him for a good portion of last season, the non-name brand secondary held up surprisingly well. Despite playing in the NFL's most prolific passing division, the Panthers finished a very respectable 14th in passing yards allowed. However, getting the ball back was an area of weakness, as they only finished 23rd in interceptions.
Returning players are Josh Thomas, James Dockery, Josh Norman, Captain Munnerlyn, Charles Godfrey, Haruki Nakamura, and DJ Campbell. Florence Drayton, DJ Moore, and Mike Mitchell were added in free agency. No DB's were added in the draft, while Robert Lester and Melvin White were signed as UDFA's.
We know that the Panthers neglected improving the secondary in the draft, and instead focused on strengthening the DT position. It's hard to blame them. The best DB's available at pick #14 were Xavier Rhodes and Kenny Vaccaro. Certainly neither were BPA with Star on the board. At pick #44, David Amerson and Jamar Taylor were the best DB's available. I don't believe either were BPA over Kawann Short. However the question could certainly be raised in the 4th and 5th rounds. Solid safety prospects like Phillip Thomas, Earl Wolff, and Bacarri Rambo were left on the board in favor of a Division II guard and a back-up linebacker. Still at least in the fourth round, it could have been argued that three consecutive defensive picks would be an overkill, and would have ignored the offense and the offensive line issues too much.
The 2013 Panther defense will try to win via a dominating defensive line. The 2012 Panthers finished as a top 10 team in sacks, so seemingly this area was not an issue. But closer examination seems to show that the Panther pass rush faded late in games, helping to expose our secondary during several late scoring drives. Even so, losses against the Falcons, Bears, and Bucs featured a direct big play given up late by the secondary. And in losses against the Giants, Broncos, and Chiefs, the opposing passing game was able to continuosly exert its will on the Panther secondary.
So here's a smattering of what the Panthers will face next season:
Week 1: Percy Harvin
Week 7: Tavon Austin
Week 8/13: Vincent Jackson/Mike Williams
Week 11: Whoever Tom Brady is throwing the ball to
Week 12: Mike Wallace
The slogan of "build through the defensive line" sounds like sound reasoning, but it's a little more scary with the actual match-ups on paper. It leaves many questions: Which of our DB's do we use against Tavon Austin, Larry Fitzgerald, or Mike Wallace? Do we stick with our zone principals, with man coverage sprinkled in? Can the secondary just step it up all season like they did against Julio Jones last year?
Do you think our secondary can meet the challenge?
Do you believe our strategy of strengthening the defensive line will be enough to bring home the wins?