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Final 2019 ratings for all Carolina Panthers defensive players, per Pro Football Focus

Here’s how all of the key players stacked up on the Panthers historically bad 2019 defense.

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New Orleans Saints v Carolina Panthers Photo by Jacob Kupferman/Getty Images

The good people at Pro Football Focus spend enormous amounts of time breaking down every player’s performance on every individual play throughout the season. In the end, players can then be given a final rating somewhere between zero (poor) and 100 (elite). If you want to learn more about their methodology, you can read PFF’s Player Grade overview.

What I have always appreciated about PFF is that while no player evaluation system is perfect, at least PFF is consistent. Players are graded by the same criteria which enables them to be given a rating for their specific position. Based on free, public data available at Pro Football Focus here are the 2019 final ratings for the Carolina Panthers key defensive contributors:

Final 2019 PFF grades - defense

Name Pos PFF Grade Games Def Snaps Def Snap %
Name Pos PFF Grade Games Def Snaps Def Snap %
Gerald McCoy IDL 72.0 16 653 63%
Dontari Poe IDL 71.2 11 402 39%
Vernon Butler IDL 59.0 14 414 40%
Kyle Love IDL 49.6 15 377 36%
Brian Burns DE/Edge 63.5 16 447 43%
Mario Addison DE/Edge 63.1 15 684 66%
Bruce Irvin DE/Edge 62.9 13 564 54%
Efe Obada DE/Edge 62.6 16 281 27%
Marquis Haynes DE/Edge 58.9 11 210 20%
Luke Kuechly LB 87.5 16 1025 99%
Shaq Thompson LB 66.3 14 962 93%
Jermaine Carter LB 53.6 16 193 19%
Javien Elliott CB 67.2 16 392 38%
James Bradberry CB 59.8 15 954 92%
Ross Cockrell CB 57.5 14 674 65%
Donte Jackson CB 55.6 13 713 69%
Tre Boston S 76.4 16 1035 100%
Eric Reid S 45.6 16 1028 99%

Based on PFF’s ratings, here are some of the key takeaways from a historically bad 2019 Panthers defense:

Defensive line - Despite the loss of Kawann Short, both Gerald McCoy (72.0) and Dontari Poe (71.2) had solid seasons. Vernon Butler (59.0) was alright while Kyle Love (49.6) fell off a cliff with the second lowest rating on the Panthers defense. Personally, I think Butler had a better season than PFF is giving him credit for.

Edge rusher - All five of the edge rushers were sandwiched closely together between Brian Burns (63.5) and Marquis Haynes (58.9). These ratings reflect capable but unspectacular performances. The fact that Burns, a promising first round rookie, played 117 fewer snaps than one-year rental Bruce Irvin still sticks in my craw.

Linebacker - Luke Kuechly (87.5) had the highest individual rating among Panthers defenders by a country mile and made PFF’s All-Pro Second Team. Shaq Thompson (66.3) had a good season after signing his four-year, $54.2 million contract.

Cornerback - Oof. This one’s bad, y’all. Somehow Javien Elliott (67.2) graded out the best while the Panthers three starters - James Bradberry (59.8), Ross Cockrell (57.5), and Donte Jackson (55.6) - all ended up with very “meh” ratings in the 50s. It’s very concerning to see both Bradberry’s and Jackson’s ratings tumble from the mid-60s last year, meaning the young corners are regressing rather than improving.

Safety - Eric Reid (45.6) had the single worst individual rating among defensive players. Yes, his 130 total tackles are impressive, but he got absolutely smoked in coverage. Reid’s 48 receptions allowed were third most among all safeties, per PFF. Conversely, Tre Boston (76.4) surprisingly had a very strong season with the second highest rating among defensive players. Props to Boston for coming back to Carolina and getting the job done.

As Panthers fans we saw a subpar Carolina defense on the field for most of the season. PFF’s less-than-stellar data generally supports what we witnessed week in and week out. Next year’s defense will likely look a lot different given some of the players’ contracts and with a new coaching staff coming in, and hopefully this translates to a more productive defensive unit. Based on PFF’s grades - and what we witnessed as fans - that should be a low bar to clear in 2020.