Carolina Panthers Training Camp Preview: Defensive Ends

INDIANAPOLIS, IN - MARCH 1: Defensive lineman Greg Hardy of Mississippi runs the 40 yard dash during the NFL Scouting Combine presented by Under Armour at Lucas Oil Stadium on March 1, 2010 in Indianapolis, Indiana. (Photo by Scott Boehm/Getty Images)

As much as I would have liked to have posted this edition of the training camp preview much earlier today, I was unable to, given the unexpected status of my health this morning. The Menactra vaccine does not play favorites.

So rather than do a triple-header (of sorts) on Sunday, we’ll look at the defensive ends tonight, and tomorrow we’ll take a look at running backs in the morning and cornerbacks in the afternoon.

The big story this offseason of course, was where former Panthers defensive end Julius Peppers would sign. And the resulting air of his departure, was and has since been, how much this defense will suffer without his presence. Now without going off on a whole separate tangent, I will point out a key word in the previous sentence: “presence.”

As defined by my favorite online dictionary source, pick one of a number of phrases to define presence. My interpretation of the word is as simple as a roll-call.

“Julius Peppers?”

“Here.”

A presence can be seen, felt, heard, etc. Presence doesn’t define whether or not the entity is doing what it’s supposed to be doing, or what it’s capable of.

Suffice to say, I chuckle everytime I read somewhere how this team is going to miss Peppers’ presence. What did his presence ever do for the team? Most of us have probably grown as tired of this story line as we did of Jake Delhomme’s nuclear meltdown in 2009.

I’m not nor have I ever denied Peppers’ potential, but he used it when it was convenient for him, and became complacent with his role on the team.

Once again, we’re looking at a position with a lot of “green” in it.

Second-year man Everette Brown is the man charged with filling the departed Peppers’ shoes. We’ve all heard how this guy is nothing like Peppers. I’ll agree to that, and also say he will be nothing like Peppers, either. Thus far, I’ve seen Brown as one who will give it his all on every down.He may not have the presence that Peppers offered, but I’d rather someone who plays with consistency, than one who brings a presence.

The one defensive end re-signing which I wasn’t particularly fond of, was that of Tyler Brayton. This is the team that expunged anyone nearing or over the 30-year mark. Yet, it chose to re-sign Brayton. Perhaps for leadership purposes for the young core of DE’s?

In the draft, the Panthers selected two defensive ends — one’s actually a combination DE/LB. South Carolina product Eric Norwood, who may also see some time as a linebacker, and Mississippi product Greg Hardy.

Hardy is the surprise of the two, and could actually be a surprise to a lot of fans this year as well — even more so in a year or two. Hardy, who was projected to be a first-round lock a year ago, decided to stay for his senior year at Mississippi, but was involved in a car accident which put him behind.

During OTA’s, it was relayed to me, that Hardy was looking like his old self (pre-senior year) again, and had an initial burst of speed that would make Julius Peppers blush.

Norwood is an interesting prospect, too. At 6-1, 241 lbs, he’s a lightweight for defensive end, and for that reason would seem to be a better fit as a linebacker. We’ll see how that transpires in the upcoming weeks during training camp.

Also returning are Hilee Taylor, Charles Johnson, and Eric Moore. So there is a decent group of DE’s to watch going into training camp.

Right now, my two recommended players to watch are Everette Brown and Greg Hardy. Some might include Norwood as well, but I’m going to be paying more attention to how he does when he lines up as a linebacker.

At this point, Brown and Brayton are the starters penciled in at defensive end for the Panthers. We’ll see if that holds true by Week One of the regular season.

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Tags: Carolina Panthers Charles Johnson Defensive End Defensive Ends Eric Moore Eric Norwood Everette Brown Greg Hardy Hilee Taylor Jake Delhomme Julius Peppers NFL Training Camp Preview Tyler Brayton

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