The defensive line will be under the microscope as it is the main blame for the poor run defense last season.
I expect the end positions to only get stronger. A successful preseason will provide two sides that are mirror images of each other.
Charles Johnson is a starter and just needs to do what he did last season.
Everette Brown is on his last legs and he needs to prove to coach Ron Rivera that he can get to the quarterback. He is the fourth of four ends and is very close to being an official bust after the Panthers traded a first round pick to draft him.
Greg Hardy needs to stay on the field. Hardy’s main goal should be to stay healthy. His secondary goal should be to do exactly what Johnson does on the other side. Hardy needs to hold his edge and terrorize the quarterback.
Eric Norwood finally knows now that he is an end and not a linebacker. Norwood should be trying to prove that the other starting end spot is not Hardy’s to lose but his. Norwood has great speed and could be very good on passing situations.
As for defensive tackle, maturity and the ability to just hold the line are what should be expected.
Sione Fua, Corvey Irvin, and Terrell McClain are all third round picks that will be expected to start. They must play like they were drafted to be impact players.
Due to Ron Edwards going down and the Panthers not signing any other tackles, Fua will be asked to be the run stuffer for the first unit. He is intelligent and has good leverage, but the NFL linemen are big boys as well and he needs to prove he is up the task of being the key to the line.
Irvin has so much to prove it is indescribable. He was a third round pick out of Georgia and has been a huge disappointment since. The Panthers even released him before re-signing him due to the lack of tackle depth. Irvin is currently listed as the starter and if he wants any future in the NFL, he will show that he can man his position.
McClain missed a lot of time, for a rookie, due to contract issues. Now that he is here, he needs to prove he is worth the wait. While Fua will be asked to be the run stuffer, McClain will be asked to penetrate. He does not need sacks, but he needs to show he can collapse the pocket and force opposing quarterbacks into the ends.