With the Panthers moving to a hybrid 3-4/4-3 defense we’ll focus on the front 7 and see who the Panthers can mix and match to make this a nightmare defense for opposing offenses.
A 2-time pro bowler and the anchor for the defensive line, K.K. has all the tools you look for in a DT. I could see Short lining up on the interior while we run the 4-3 and on the outside when lined up in a 3-4. Short will even more of a major piece to the defense this year with the departure of seasoned vet, Julius Peppers.
The rich get richer. The Panthers had a rough year last year in terms of sacks (35 sacks in 2018, 27th in the NFL). This year should be better. Adding All-Pro Gerald McCoy is exactly what this defense needed (short of an All-Pro Safety). McCoy brings depth and experience. His resume isn’t bad either. Much like Short, I can see McCoy playing inside next to Short in the 4-3 and inside spelling Short in the 3-4.
Let’s forget about last season for Poe, shouldn’t be hard, he was invisible when he was out there. A difference-maker in KC when they ran the 3-4, let’s just chalk it up to learning a new playbook and not being completely comfortable. Poe should be able to feast this year. I believe he will be the primary Nose tackle in the 3-4 scheme. His strength is his ability to eat up blocks, not known for his pass-rushing. This should help the other pass rushers on this defense.
Irvin may be one of the most under the radar signing of the offseason. With the Panthers switching to a hybrid defense, Irvin is a perfect fit. And after terrorizing the Panthers while on the Seahawks, we’re happy he’s on our team. Look for Irvin to be both a DE and a stand-up Linebacker.
Addison is also a candidate to play the DE spot and the LB spot when in the 3-4. This is new for Addison but he’s athletic enough to make the transition. Over the last few years, few have been as consistent on this panthers team (9.5 sacks in 2016 11 sacks in 2017 and 9 sacks in 2018).
The rookie made a splash in his first professional game recording 2 sacks while playing just 10 snaps. Coming out of college his biggest asset was his ability to get off the ball, fast and in a hurry. He looked like a steal for the Panthers after his first preseason game and I expect big things from Burns, even as a rookie. He will more than likely play the same position as Irvin and Addison. Look for Burns to make a splash this year.
Haynes is another player who showed out last week against the Bears. He had two sacks, three tackles and assisted on one. A second-year pro out of Ole Miss, Haynes is shining at the perfect time. Barring some setback, I see Haynes making the 53 man roster.
LUUUUKE. The leader of this defense and all-around great football player. I don’t think I need to break down Luke too much. You watch one game and you can see why he’s one of the best LB in NFL history.
It’s his time. Learning for Thomas Davis had to have paid off for Thompson. While he had his ups and downs last season, he never really took control of that spot while Davis sat the first 4 games due to a failed drug test. With Davis gone, this is Thompson’s job to lose.
Stay Tuned as I break down the Secondary in the next article.