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NASHVILLE, TENNESSEE - APRIL 25: Brian Burns of Florida State reacts after being chosen #16 overall by the Carolina Panthers during the first round of the 2019 NFL Draft on April 25, 2019 in Nashville, Tennessee. (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)

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.

 

Defensive Tackle

Kawann Short

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.

Gerald McCoy

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.

 

Dontari Poe

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.

Defensive End/Linebackers

Hybrids

Bruce Irvin

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.

Seattle Seahawks’ Bruce Irvin walks on the field before the NFL Super Bowl XLVIII football game against the Denver Broncos, Sunday, Feb. 2, 2014, in East Rutherford, N.J. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren) (Ted S. Warren / AP)

Mario Addison

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).

Brian Burns

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.

Marquis Haynes

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.

 

Linebackers

Luke Kuechly

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.

Shaq Thompson

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.

Sep 8, 2016; Denver, CO, USA; Carolina Panthers linebacker Shaq Thompson (54) holds the ball after a fumble recovery in the first quarter against the Denver Broncos at Sports Authority Field at Mile High. Mandatory Credit: Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

 

Stay Tuned as I break down the Secondary in the next article.

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