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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  • John

    First let me say I am sorry to hear you aren’t feeling well. Menactra vaccine is pretty serious stuff. I hope everyone is doing better soon.

    Now on to the football. Hardy may well end up being the true steal of the draft. Guy has all the physical tools and the motor. If he is fully recovered we should see his talent show through this year with him really hitting his stride in the coming seasons. I wouldn’t be surprised at all to see our ends get at least the same number of sacks and pressures overall just without one person dominating those numbers. Throw in Norwood, who the Panthers have practically gushed about, and I think we will have a respectable pass rush. These guys are perfect for Meeks system.

    Now we just have to wait and see what training camp brings.

    • http://www.blogtalkradio.com/blitzradio Eric Quackenbush

      Thank you for the kind words, John. I am feeling quite a bit better today than I was yesterday. I needed the vaccine for school; it’s side effects definitely took me by surprise not more than 12 hours after receiving the vaccination.

      I’m really excited by Hardy, and I wonder if the gushing over Norwood isn’t a partial attempt at taking some attention off of Hardy, as well.

      Training camp practices are only four days away!

      • John

        Could be but I would be surprised as there has been some good talk about Hardy coming out as well. But if they are trying to be a little more tricky that would be great. Be an interesting and a bit of a welcome change for the “It is what it is” coaching staff.

        • http://www.blogtalkradio.com/blitzradio Eric Quackenbush

          You just can’t end a debate with “It is what it is.”

          I like the conspiracy idea that it’s in a not-so-obvious attempt to take attention off of Hardy. Don’t hear nearly as much about him as we do Norwood. Not to take anything away from Norwood, but how can you truly gush over someone whom you’re not sure if he’ll be a DE or a LB, and maybe he’ll play both positions?

          • John

            Maybe I am reading wrong but I wanted to be sure I wasn’t misunderstood. I wasn’t trying to end debate I was just saying a little trickiness would be a nice change from a shrug and the “It is what it is” answer.

          • http://www.blogtalkradio.com/blitzradio Eric Quackenbush

            No, you weren’t read wrong. I thought about that after posting, that you may think I misunderstood you. I was actually posting that as an additional comment, but in my haste forgot to clarify that.

            I totally agree with you.

          • J. Gore

            Glad that you’re feeling better Eric. I think I heard it somewhere that Charles Johnson would be starting at RE and Tyler Brayton would be our LE. Brown would share snaps with Johnson and Hardy would share the LE with Brayton. I know all this is subject to change in preseason but iI like that scenario for now. If your gonna question Norwoods ability to play DE wouldn’t we have to question Browns too. He’s only 260lbs. And Brayton may lack speed but he makes up for it with motor. The guy doesn’t stop. Two years ago when we played the Giants and lost in overtime, Brayton and Thomas Davis were the only two guys that could tackle Brandon Jacobs man to man. Yeah he’ll be a leader for our young guys and may eventually give way to Greg Hardy. Brown and Norwood also have a high motor and I think both of them will play well this season.

  • John

    Got ya.

    BTW any chance one of you guys could start a thread on Gannts issues with Moore? Guy is killing me. He was in the observer dumping on Moore again. Saying no one game planned him cause the games didn’t count and then disparaging the game with NO as if we weren’t missing 14 starters as well. I am beginning to think he gets a cut of Clausens signing bonus. At least Yasinkas seems to have resigned himself to Moore as starter.

    • http://www.blogtalkradio.com/blitzradio Eric Quackenbush

      Yeah, I’ll get to that this evening. I posted one last night, but I was logged off the internet, and so it got deleted.

    • http://www.blogtalkradio.com/blitzradio Eric Quackenbush

      Any chance you could email me the link and I’ll read the piece when I get a chance? You can find my email in the about section of the site.

      • John

        Be glad to.