Panthers Prepare to Unleash New Strength

Jeremy Brevard-USA TODAY Sports

The top offseason roster priority for Panthers head coach Ron Rivera and new GM Dave Gettleman was to add some 'hog mollies' to the middle of the Panthers defense. In 2012 the Panthers got gashed by the run at times and rarely could stop short yardage situations. After a week and a half of training camp Rivera and the Panthers feel they are one step closer to turning the defenses' biggest weakness into not only a strength but arguably the best front 7 in the NFL.

So how did they do it? They accomplished the transformation in two steps. The first came out of necessity after MLB Jon Beason was lost to injury midway through the 2012 season. Moving Luke Kuechly now appears a total stroke of genius or complete luck depending on how you look at it. I'm sure even the most casual NFL fan knows how Kuechly performed once moved to the middle. He is the epitome of the cliche' 'tackling machine'...with the instincts of a bloodhound on the football field.

Yet Kuechly's talents were still not being maximized.He often had to fight off the blocks of offensive linemen that outweigh him by 75+lbs. So step 2 was to add a space eating DT in front of Kuechly to command double teams and keep Kuechly 'clean' so speak...and of course free to make tackles. The Panthers now think they have done that by drafting DTs Star Lotulelei and Kawann Short. Lotulelei in particular will be asked to command double teams in order to free up other players to make plays. Conversely Short will be brought in get penetration up the middle and make the passers life much harder.

It's been a long time since the Panthers had a front 7 on defense this strong, on paper at least. Tonight we get to see them match up with a Bears offensive line that is still struggling to find consistency but still able to gash a defense with the run. Jay Cutler and Brandon Marshall torched the Panthers last year so for at least a quarter the Panthers hope to change that dramatically.

Greg Hardy certainly thinks the front line is strong. He's even given them mythical names to go along with his Kraken moniker, calling the entire group Monsterz Inc.

So I'm sure Panther fans are looking forward to this first tilt of the preseason. Do you agree the Panthers strength is now the front 7? It may seem obvious but until it plays out in the field its still a question mark. I see the answer starting to unfold tonight.

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