The Panthers went into the off-season with Glairing needs on the defensive side of the ball, specifically in the trenches on the defensive line. This was concerning to head Coach John Fox who prides himself on building his teams around the defensive line.
Pro Bowl defensive end Julius Peppers declined a long-term deal in the offseason that would have made him the highest paid defensive player in the NFL. The Panthers franchised Peppers and it cost them 17 Million dollars against the cap.
However, Peppers is yet to sign tender or report to camp since expressing his desire to play for another team. The Panthers had very little cap space to make moves in free agency, and it showed as they did not sign one free agent prior to the draft.
The Panthers did not have a first round pick this year as they traded it away in last years draft in order to move back into the first round and select offensive tackle Jeff Otah. The Panthers made another risky move in this years draft by trading away 2010 first round pick and moving up to select Florida State defensive end Everett Brown.
Brown was projected as a top 10 pick by many analyses but fell all the way to the second round as many teams deemed him as a tweener. Some teams weren’t sure weather Brown who stands at 6’1 256lbs would be able to play defensive end in the NFL.
The Panther’s new defensive coordinator Ron Meeks was the defensive coordinator for the Indianapolis Colts during their super bowl run.
If anyone can turn an undersize 4-3 defensive end into an every down player it’s Meeks, He turned Dwight Freeney and Robert Mathis whom are both considered undersized defensive ends into pro bowl players.
The Panthers also drafted defensive back Martin Sherrod who played safety and corner back at Troy. They are hoping Sherrod can fill the nickel back position and replace the departed veteran Ken Lucas as Richard Marshall will now move into the starting role along side Chris Gamble.
The two form a very talented corner back combo, but without a pass rush it’s difficult for any corner back to make plays. They added depth at the defensive tackle position by drafting Irvin Corvey out of George.
Corvey hasn’t started many games over his career at George, but in the twelve games he started this past year he’s looked pretty impressive. When the Panthers were without starters on the Defensive line vs. the Giants last year they watched the Giants rush for over 300 yards, so they had to address the depth issue at defensive tackle.
If the panthers are able resolve the hold out with Julius Peppers they have a chance at improving a defense that was really exposed when they played good teams down the stretch giving up over 30 points five out of the last seven games.
The pass rush has to improve, and that has to come from the front four since Fox doesn’t blitz often.
There still remains a question at the quarterback position. Jake Delhome has been up and down the past few years. Statistically he hasn’t had a good season since his 2005 pro bowl season in which the panthers were eliminated in the NFC title game vs. Seattle, a game in which Delhome threw 3 interceptions.
He now has 9 turnovers in his last two playoff games and he’s going on 35 years old. The backs up quarterbacks are Josh McCown and Matt Moore, hardly house hold names. However, Moore looked impressive two Seasons ago starting the final 3 games where he went 2-1 as a starter with impressive victories over Tampa Bayand Seattle.
The coaches were unimpressed with Moore’s pre-season play this year and after being sidelined for six weeks with a leg injury he fell behind McCown on the depth chart.
Opponents are going to sit back and throw the football against this Carolina defense this year until they prove they can put some pressure on the quarterback. They are hoping to get the Peppers issue resolved as well as the emergence of former third round selection defensive end Charles Johnson who looked impressive last year as a back up.
Teams are also going too really pressure Delhome, even when he’s played well he’s always had ball security issues. Including the playoffs, he had more turnovers last year than he had touchdowns and that’s always concerning.
There is also concern weather or not he’s able regain his confidence after the worst playoff performance many have ever seen by a quarterback in recent history in which he turned the ball over six times verses Arizona.