The more and more I think about where we are in the draft, the more excited I get about some of the CBs that could fall to us. We have a chance at Darqueze Dennard, Kyle Fuller, Jason Verrett, Bradley Roby, and possibly Gilbert. I'm still reserved on Roby, but any of the other four I think could step in day one and greatly improve our secondary. But it goes deeper than just what they bring to the table. If we had a corner who could effectively lock down the opposing team's #1 receiver, then it could allow us to run a defensive system that would terrorize any offensive line.
As the Panthers have such a good defensive pass rush, I think a corner who excels in press coverage and stalling the receiver at the line would be the best fit for our defense. At first glance, Dennard fits this bill. I would love to have him manning up against the opposing team's #1. While he would probably be my choice of the four if I got to pick the lot, I think Fuller could do the same for us in terms of press coverage. He doesn't have as much experience with it, but he has the body and aggressive demeanor that one needs. Furthermore, he might have a higher ceiling than Dennard. Verrett is another interesting one to look at. He is the smallest of all the listed corners, but he isn't light by any means. Being two inches shorter than Fuller, he is only one pound lighter. He might have the hardest time succeeding in press coverage, but he looks to be the best cover corner of any of them.
But now that we've discussed the possible picks, let's move on to what it would mean for our defense if we had someone who could lock down the team's leading receiver.
Now we don't currently run the system I'm about to discuss, but I would like to know how all of you think about whether or now this would be successful.
Like I've said in other comment posts regarding Anthony Barr, if we had someone like him, then we could use him as a pseudo fifth pass rusher, but operating out of the OLB position. The problem with this is that our secondary probably wouldn't be able to hold up in man to man coverage, there being only four of them. But I got to thinking, we just signed someone that specializes in rushing the passer, CFL player Alex Hall. I don't really know how good other aspects of his play are, but he's shown he knows how to rush the QB. He is someone I think could operate the same way I discussed Barr. Hall could line up either next to Hardy with his hand in the dirt, or right behind him as a rushing linebacker. Either way, this would give us a constant five man pass rush on every single play.
In other words, we'd be technically running a 5-2-4 defense. We already led the league in sacks last year with 60, and the majority of that came through just a four man pass rush. If we added a fifth, it would entirely eliminate the opportunity for double teams, and could easily overwhelm an offensive line. Hardy usually has the job of going against the offense's best blocker, the LT. With Hall also rushing that side, Hardy could instead engage the LG, and I think it would give him even more opportunities to penetrate the pocket. If the LT engages Hardy instead, then Hall almost gets a free pass to the QB.
Unless we were playing a team with a fully stout offensive line, having these five rushers would be too much for them to handle. This means that they would have to bring in extra blockers in the form of a TE or RB. Correct me if I'm wrong, but I don't think I've seen a position that has an inline TE without a RB in the backfield, so that eliminates two possible receivers to challenge our secondary. At least one of them would have to stay and block. If either one goes out for a route, then we have the luxury of the best linebacking duo in the NFL trolling the middle of the field. With a formation involving a TE and RB, adding up the offensive line and the QB makes up eight players, leaving at the very most three receivers to our four secondary players.
But this is where the need for a lockdown corner comes in. Even with a great pass rush, if the defense can't cover for long enough, the ball will still get out. That's where are 28th pick comes in. If any one of those three corners, Dennard, Fuller, or Verrett, were there, then we would be getting a DB with the skills to eliminate whoever they are covering. This reduces the possible targets for the QB to two, with three defenders blanketing them and the best pass rush in the league about to eat him alive. If both the TE and RB stay in to block, then our LB corps has the freedom to drop back in zone coverage to make it even harder to complete a pass, or they could blitz, giving the QB even less time to get the ball off.
I don't think our current secondary has the ability to perform this defensive scheme, and would require that nickel CB. But adding a top corner in the draft could make a defense like this possible, and would make our defense so much more difficult to play against.