An unstoppable force hit the Carolina Panthers last year. The tandem of Greg Hardy and Charles Johnson have torn apart rivals’ playbooks, and this year they look to do the same.
Most Panthers’ fans felt a foreboding sense of betrayal after the departure of Julius Peppers. That feeling has now been replaced with a buzz of excitement at the thought of two dominant defensive ends instead of one.
Last season Greg Hardy and Charles Johnson accounted for 23.5 sacks. This is only behind one other defensive end tandem in the league, Houston’s J.J. Watt and Antonio Smith. This coming from essentially fresh meat in the league? I like the sound of it.
Hardy came to the Panthers sporting nothing but what was on paper, virtually forgotten with the arrival of Jimmy Clausen the same year. However his stats speak for the athleticism of the big DE. Having a height of 6’4″ and a weight of 278 lbs, Hardy still manages an amazing 4.87 40 yard dash for his overwhelming size. Though his first two years were as quiet as Clausen’s career, last year Hardy accumulated 11 sacks and 61 total tackles, having a breakout year only the coaches saw coming.
Charles Johnson was the last ditch hope of the Carolina Panthers after Peppers left. Aside from some high level math scouts did, there was only hope that Johnson would break out. To the surprise of the QBs he has sacked and the runningbacks he has stuffed at the line, he did break out. Johnson had only 10 career sacks before arriving in Bank of America Stadium, he now accomplished 12.5 in one season. I am glad those scouts aced their high school math classes, because they gave the Panthers the second half to a double edged sword.
It is needless to say that it is hard enough to block one star DE with your best tackle, now who blocks the second. The Panthers closed one door with Julius Peppers heading to the Windy City. Now a gateway has opened to the tandem of Johnson and Hardy.
These two athletes celebrate with each other after every tackle, and every sack, because in the end they know that no HB gets around the edge with them on the field, and no QB gets an easy pass off.
With the Panthers investing two draft picks in DTs, the line inside of the defensive line could be just as power packed as the outside if the picks work out. The tag team of Johnson and Hardy add another puzzle piece to the Panthers, and a layer of tenacity to the defense.
Not only are they a physical threat, they add something that I see as the most important element on the field. They add fear. Fear controls the game and the tempo, and once those QBs get table-topped, all that is left is the CBs to pick off the pass.
Johnson and Hardy are young and ferocious, and this coming year, I foresee a playoff ready defense, starring and starting with these two young men that are excited to play and make tackles.