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Young Panthers defense in for trial by fire

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Hoo boy, this might be painful to watch

Tampa Bay Buccaneers v Carolina Panthers
“Dear Lord, please let Coach Rhule actually play me at DE. Amen.”
Photo by Jacob Kupferman/Getty Images

All seven of the Carolina Panthers 2020 NFL Draft picks were on the defensive side of the ball, which is good since the defense was far from effective last season. Unfortunately, the country has been playing a soft zone against COVID-19, leading to the virus slowly making its way into the redzone. Since The Rona has controlled the TOP so far in 2020, the Panthers rookies, plus their other very young defenders, will really need to adjust quickly.

The NFL recently told the NFLPA that there will be no preseason games this year. That means that the only work the Panthers youngsters will get before the real thing will be the limited practice time, and we still are not entirely sure what that will look like. Rookies like Derrick Brown, Yetur Gross-Matos, and Jeremy Chinn, all of whom are expected to have major impacts this season, and even younger guys like Donte Jackson and Brian Burns still have some growing to do (at least on defense they do; if you need a punt team gunner, then Burns has plenty of experience).

All of this is exacerbated by the fact that the Panthers have an entirely new defensive scheme and coaching staff, including a head coach who has never been the lead man at the NFL level. This is not to disparage Matt Rhule in any way; them’s just the facts, Jack. The defense this season will not be pretty, and it will have to lean heavily on veterans like Tre Boston and Kawann Short to help bring the rookies along. But again, new coaching staff means that those guys are learning, too. Don’t get too excited about this young defense just yet, folks. There are going to be some excruciating growing pains this year. Hopefully tossing them in the deep end this year helps them really excel next season.