The Carolina Panthers will enter the 2013 season with two of the best pass rushers in the game. While a lot of attention tends to go to Charles Johnson, it's his teammate on the other side of the defensive line that has been getting the Carolina fanbase buzzing as of late.
Greg Hardy was a sixth-round draft pick in 2010 and had it not been for concerns about his character, he would have gone higher. The Panthers saw something in the Mississippi product they liked and just last year saw him harness his potential.
Carolina started him at defensive end but would move him over to defensive tackle on occasion. The switch didn't seem to slow him down as he made opposing guards and tackles work each series.
When the 2012 season concluded, Hardy had sacked the quarterback 11.0 times and was responsible for two forced fumbles.
What does the man dubbed "The Kraken" do for an encore when the season opens in September?
The good news for Panthers fans is Hardy has shown no signs of missing a step from last year. Carolina head coach has had to tell Hardy to take it easy on plays during workouts because of the level of intensity he is bringing to the practice field.
While he has missed some time at OTAs due to personal reasons, there is no reason to believe he won't be ready to go in Week 1. Hardy has made it clear that he will not let his desire for a new contract impede him from missing any time this year.
In fact, Hardy has been very optimistic about his fourth season in the league.
Recently, he has made his goal public during a team interview.
Why shoot low, right? If I'm going to shoot at it ... I'm going to shoot at a little bird with a 50-caliber bullet. That's the goal for this year, 50 sacks, that's where I'm at.
While it is extremely unlikely he will get close to 50, it is a reassuring to know where his mindset is going into training camp. One could make a case that the entire defense will follow his lead, especially the guys up front.
Hardy has dubbed the Carolina defensive line, "Monsters, Inc." and it may not be so much about the on-field results as it will be about the attitude.
This year, it's complete domination, savage, ruthless, disgusting all-out Kraken-type stuff. Except it's going to spread. I'm tired of having to stick up for everybody. We're about to come out with a nasty attitude. It's going to be monstrous.
If there is anyone to pave the way for a Carolina identity change, it's Hardy.
The 2013 season will not be about a contract extension or holding out for more money. For Greg Hardy, this season will be about how many times he can introduce himself to the opposing quarterback during the course of a game.
He has the idea he is the best on the field and will prove it each Sunday.
The Panthers look to be an aggressive bunch up front this year and Hardy could very well double his sack total from last season. It may not be 50, but a 22-sack season is still Pro Bowl and All-Pro caliber in today's league.
Those kind of numbers would prove to be monstrous indeed.
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