Can the Panthers have a Top 10 Defense in 2021? Pt. 1
The Panthers have had an eventful offseason, shipping Teddy out of town and improving the roster on both sides of the ball. While GM Scott Fitterer was maneuvering his first free agency and draft, they came out on the other end with some very talented young and old additions. Let's take a look at the front seven:
Brian Burns, Haason Reddick, Yetur Gross-Matos, Morgan Fox, Derrick Brown, Daquan Jones, Bravvion Roy, Marquis Haynes, Daivyon Nixon, Austin Larkin, Phil Hoskins
When looking at this line, the first thing I notice is the amount of draft capital invested into this unit. Let's take a look:
Brian Burns (1st round pick-2019)
Derrick Brown (1st round pick-2020)
Haason Reddick (1st round pick-
Yetur Gross-Matos (2nd round pick-2020)
Daquan Jones (4th round pick-2014)
Marquis Haynes (4th round pick-2018)
Daivyon Nixon (5th round pick-2021)
Bravvion Roy (6th round pick-2020)
Phil Hoskins (7th round pick-2021)
Morgan Fox (undrafted)
Austin Larkin (undrafted)
This is a group of extremely talented players who have the potential to be a dominating force in Phil Snow's second year as defensive coordinator. Last year, the Panthers ranked 18th in both total yards allowed and points allowed per game. The young players didn't fare that well getting to the passer either, ranking just 23rd with 29 sacks in 2020.
With 3rd-year defensive end Brian Burns looking to build off his 9 sack season, he should have some added reinforcements with a healthy Yetur Gross-Matos and Haason Reddick. With Brian Burns likely to get double-teamed, this will free up more 1-on-1s for his teammates throughout the season. Burns has called on opposing coordinators to "pick your poison." Reddick is familiar with the defensive scheme, so he should be an easy fit here to terrorize enemy QBs. This edge group will be something to watch come September!
Panthers fans need not forget about 2020 opt-out linebacker Christian Miller who showed promise in his sophomore year of 2019, revealing his signature rod-reeling touchdown celebration. Veteran Marquis Haynes has flashed at times, providing Carolina with a nice depth piece who has been molded to fit their defense over his 3 years here.
On the inside, I wouldn't be surprised to see Rhule utilize Yetur at times to give interior offensive linemen different looks. The truth is, it all starts with Derrick Brown, the mauler in the middle. He showed growth in the pass rushing department in his rookie, a skill many NFL analysts believed he would struggle in. The addition of Daquan Jones should help the young lineman to focus on the intricate details of the game along with his run stuffing presence. Draft day steal Daivyon Nixon has garnered praise from head coach Matt Rhule as well: "He has all the potential to be a really good player in this league, we just have to coach him, and he just has to attack that process, and just become a smart, reliable football player, because he has all the physical tools."
Overall, the Panthers defensive line group is likely to get more recognition with the emergence of Brian Burns. What do you think of this group? Are they a top 10 unit? Give me your thoughts in the comments below.