CSR continues to grade the Panthers positions from 2013. Today we'll look at the defensive end position, arguably the strongest group in the entire NFL.
Defensive Snap %: 86%
Tackles: 39 solo, 20 assisted, 59 total
Greg Hardy was one of the best 4-3 defensive ends in the entire NFL this season. Hardy totaled 15 sacks, which ranked second in the NFL among 4-3 defensive ends. He also led all 4-3 defensive ends with 25 quarterback hits.
Although Hardy put up some amazing statistics this season, it is important to keep in mind that ten of his fifteen sacks came in three games, with seven coming in the final two games of the year. Hardy had three sacks in Week 16 against Terron Armstead, a rookie left tackle making his first career start, and four more sacks in Week 17 against Lamar Holmes, one of the worst left tackles in the NFL.
It’s also interesting that in Weeks 13 and 14, with Charles Johnson sidelined with a knee injury, Hardy struggled to make an impact, as he combined for only two tackles, one sack, one hit and one quarterback hurry. Hardy was also shut down by Joe Staley in the Panthers playoff loss to the San Francisco 49ers.
There’s no doubt that Hardy had a great year, but it was obvious that when opposing teams specifically game-planned for him, they were able to effectively take him out. Expect the Panthers to bring this up during the offseason when negotiating with Hardy for his new contract.
Defensive Snap %: 71%
Tackles: 25 solo, 6 assisted, 31 total
Greg Hardy might have put up the flashy stats, but Charles Johnson was the most consistent defensive end, week in, week out for the Panthers. Johnson made an impact on every snap he was on the field, both as a pass rusher and as a run defender.
It’s also amazing that Johnson ranked fifth in sacks among 4-3 defensive ends with 11, despite suffering a knee injury Week 11 against the Patriots, subsequently missing the next two games. Even after he returned to the field Week 14, it was clear that he wasn’t fully healed, as he lost some of the explosiveness and power he displayed prior to his injury. It’s a shame he got injured, because he was on pace for the best season of his career.
Defensive Snap %: 23%
Tackles: 9 solo, 6 assisted, 15 total
Following a promising rookie year, there were high expectations for Frank Alexander to take another step forward in 2013. Unfortunately, he failed to deliver and was a non-factor for most of the season. It’s unknown why, but Alexander spent most of the season on the bench, as he was replaced by Mario Addison as the third defensive end in the rotation.
Alexander didn’t help himself either, as he failed to make an impact when he did see the field, as he only managed one sack all year long.
Defensive Snap %: 26%
Tackles: 13 solo, 8 assisted, 21 total
Mario Addison played very well as a situational pass rusher for the Panthers this season, taking over Frank Alexander’s role. Addison also started Week 12 against the Miami Dolphins, and had the best game of his career, totaling six quarterback hurries, three hits and a sack.
Of all the Panthers depth defensive linemen, Addison has the most potential. He still needs to polish his pass rushing technique and needs to show better awareness in run defense, but Addison has a high ceiling.
Defensive Snap %: 16%
Tackles: 6 solo, 2 assisted, 8 total
Panthers fans and analysts were surprised when rookie UDFA Wes Horton made the roster back in September, as most were expecting him to end up on the Panthers Practice Squad for further development. Horton did not see the field too often this season, and when he did, he had mixed results. Although Horton showed a good first step, his pass rush moves were undeveloped as he failed to consistently use his hands to engage his opponents. As a result, he was often stonewalled by offensive tackles.
Horton has good speed and athleticism -- if he continues to work on his hand placement (which will improve his overall pass rushing technique) , he could be a valuable depth piece at defensive end for the Panthers moving forward.
Agree or disagree with any of the analyses or grades? Feel free to comment below.