There are few positions on the Panther roster that are as set as DE. The Panthers return both starters and three rotational players from the #1defensive sacking unit in the NFL. In addition they added a very talented rookie in the 2nd round potentially making this unit even better in 2014.
Charles Johnson 6'2" 285 lbs., 8th year (UGA)
Johnson is the leader of the unit and will typically line up on the left side. Though Johnson fell a little short of his sack total in 2012 (12.5 vs 11 in 2013) he is still a dominate three down DE who plays with power and a high motor. Johnson has a number of power moves he can use both inside and out and is a player every opposing OC will need to account for in their scheme.
Probability of Starting: 100%; Probability of Dominating: 90%
Greg Hardy 6'4" 275 lbs., 5th year (Ole Miss)
Hardy is coming off a break out year in which he recorded a team high 15 sacks, 25% of the team total 60. Hardy will start on the right side of the Panther defensive line but will be moved around on 3rd down making him even harder to defend. He will in theory be motivated to perform well again given he is on a franchise tag and looking to land a long term deal. The only question mark on Hardy in 2014 is whether some recent off the field trouble will result in some type of suspension from the league.
Probability of Starting: 90% (week 1); Probability of Dominating: 99.9%
Mario Addison 6'3" 260 lbs., 4th season (Troy)
Addison recorded 21 tackles in 2013 as a 3rd down speed rusher and special teams contributor. In Addison the Panthers have a player that can bring speed to the edge in pass rushing situations. Addison will continue to have a role in the defense in 2013 though he may never develop into a three down DE. Regardless, his speed will continue to be an asset to the kick coverage units.
Probability of Making the Roster: 95%; Probability of Starting: 1%
Frank Alexander 6'4" 270 lbs., 3rd year (Oklahoma)
Alexander will start the season with a four game suspension due to a failed drug test making 2014 a big year for ‘Big Frank'. In the time he has he needs to prove he's worth a roster spot and eventually a new contract. Alexander seems to have all the physical tools of a three down DE but he has struggled with the mental aspect. For example, after a couple stupid penalties early in the 2013 season Frank found himself in the Rivera doghouse. Alexander did start 3 games down the stretch in 12 total appearances and was beginning to look like a younger Charles Johnson is stature and style. The key in 2014 is whether he can keep that motivation going in spite of the four game ban to start the season. The Panthers have no motivation to not give him the chance in 2014 but anything beyond that is in the balance.
Probability of Making the Roster: 90%; Probability of Starting: 0% (Week 1)
Kony Ealy 6'4" 275 lbs., 1st year (Missouri)
Ealy was labeled one of the best pass rushers in the 2014 draft but slide to the Panthers at #60 on draft day. Ealy will have time to develop and he becomes insurance in case the Panthers and Greg Hardy fail to reach a new deal after 2014.
Probability of Making the Roster: 95%; Probability of Starting: 0%
Wes Horton 6'5" 270 lbs., 2nd year (Southern Cal)
Horton defied the odds last year by making the roster as a UDFA. He made the most of his few opportunities in 2013 logging two sacks in 10 appearances. Though he was a pleasant surprise his roster spot is no guarantee in 2014 as the Panther have brought in some serious competition for the 5th DE roster spot.
Probability of Making the Roster: 50%; Probability of Starting: 0%
Craig Roh 6'4" 280 lbs., 2nd Year (Michigan)
Roh was a UDFA signed by the Panthers in 2013 who spent the entire 2013 season on the Panthers practice squad. Consequently Roh will get another chance to make the Panthers roster in 2014. Roh could potentially land on the PS for another season if he fails to crack a very deep depth chart at DE.
Probability of Making the Roster: 5%; Probability of Making the Practice Squad: 60%
Alex Hall 6'5" 255 lbs., 4th year (St. Augustine)
Hall hasn't played a significant amount in the NFL since his first two seasons in 08'- 09'. He spent the past two season tearing up the CFL and so the Panthers used their Canadian connections to bring him in for a look. Hall was 2nd in the CFL in sacks in 2013 with 16 in 17 games. It's still hard to see Hall making the Panthers roster but as we saw with Wes Horton last year, it is possible.
Probability of Making the Roster: 5%; Probability of Making the Practice Squad:
30% Not eligible