The Success of a Defense Does Not Rest on One Man’s Shoulders
I’ve been reading this one post on a website that I frequent often,and the fact that it keeps reappearing is rather annoying. Not that I have a problem with folks expressing their opinions, but the title of it irritates me. It’s a piece written by a contributor at Bleacher Report. Now before you get all bent out of shape about the source of the opinion, let me first say that the writer brings about some good thoughts.
…more after the jump…
“Why Everette Brown Needs to be the Carolina Panthers’ Best Player.”
But does he really need to be the Panthers’ best player? From the reasoning Jonathan Maurer provides, yes. And to an extent, I can understand and partially agree with his reasoning. Beyond that however, I mostly disagree.
Right off the bat, he talks about Brown’s rookie season stats. Most fans realize — at least they should; especially in hindsight — that Everette Brown was drafted as an insurance policy of sorts.
In 2009, former Panthers defensive end Julius Peppers was staging a holdout by not signing his franchise salary. Which to me, was bigoted, anyway. If one can’t live on and be happy with over $1 million a week in a 16-week period, then for lack of better words, shame on you.
I digress. For the annoyance I will endure by upsetting someone over a player’s salary, when said player feels they’re entitled to extraordinary sums of dinero — I’ll stop while I’m ahead.
Everette Brown was an insurance policy. That’s the way I saw it, anyway. Not to say that Brown would have been successful if thrust into the starting position had Peppers not signed his franchise tender. However, I’m not going to say he wouldn’t have been successful, either.
But the necessity to draft a defensive end with some upside was of the utmost importance. In fact last year, I couldn’t think of a bigger position of need than defensive end, based on the contract-related antics of the disgruntled Julius Peppers.
So of course, during the draft, general manager Marty Hurney made a familiar move, trading away the 2010 first-round pick to move up in the second round to select Brown.
Technically, Brown did not “fall” to the Panthers, at least not where their officially allotted draft selection was to be made.
So does this put pressure on how Brown should perform this year? Yes, it does. I do agree with that, because technically, he is this year’s first-round draft pick. The upside of which is, he already has a year in the system under his belt. The difference however, which is just as important: he’s not making “first-round money.” So if it takes another year for him to adjust properly, it’s still not that bad. To make my point though, the success of the defense has as much bearing on Everette Brown as the other 10 guys on defense.
Every man plays a part. You might say a small one. But there are no small parts, because every part is just as important to making the machine run smoothly. The culmination of every man playing his part and giving it his all, will determine whether the defense succeeds or fails. One man is merely a part. Just like an air filter is a part that helps your car’s fuel economy, and spark plugs provide a charge to combust the fuel.
Everything beyond that however, is a matter of opinion. Is the safety position really that big of a weakness? To me, the Panthers really didn’t lose much in terms of playmaking ability when they traded Chris Harris back to Chicago. They lost a vocal leader, but Sherrod Martin’s and Charles Godfrey’s athletic abilities will suffice and expound on what we saw last year.
The defensive secondary on this team really doesn’t concern me nearly as much as the defensive front. And size isnt’ as much a concern to me, as experience. Let’s not forget, the Panthers do have three, 300+ pound behemoths on the front line. Corvey Irvin stands at 6-3, weighing in at 302 lbs; Tank Tyler is a tall 6-2 and 306 lbs, and Louis Leonard comes in at 6-4, 325 lbs! Not undersized by any stretch of the imagination, but not overweight and slow-footed. I’d prefer our defensive linemen be a little bit lighter and faster. Besides, it’s not like defensive coordinator Ron Meeks doesn’t know how to work with “small” defensive linemen.
Let’s consider the Panthers’ schedule this year, too. Something like 26th most difficult, or you could say the sixth “easiest.” Of course that’s all based on last year’s teams with last year’s rosters. A lot can change in an offseason. But for the sake of argument, let’s have a look at some of Carolina’s opponents this year.
What I’m going to do, is compare Jason Cole’s running back rankings to the Panthers’ run defense, based on Carolina’s 2010 schedule .
In Week One, the Panthers play what Cole has ranked the 16th running game in the league; the New York Giants. 16th to me, seems run-of-the-mill average. In fact, it is. It’s smack-dab in the middle. It’s neither good, nor bad; it just “is.”
Brandon Jacobs keeps getting his knees banged up, and hasn’t been the same really, since 2008.
At this point, I’d say that’s an even match. Because the Panthers’ run defense is neither good nor bad; it just “is,” too! Why? Because we really don’t know what we have, other than heights and weights.
I’m not saying this to slight the guys on our defense. I’m just looking at this as objectively and unbiased as possible. Believe me, it ain’t easy. I want nothing more than to drink of the electric blue Kool-Aid and heap praise and blind faith on this team’s run defense, but that would be nothing short of ridiculous.
In Week Two, the Panthers face the No. Five-ranked Cincinnati Bengals. I don’t agree with the ranking, and when I think of the Bengals running game, I think more along the lines of 13.
Speaking of 13 — it’s first inner-division opponent, the 13th-ranked New Orleans Saints face the Panthers in Week Three. I look at the Saints’ running game of last year, and I see it as more of the butter. As long as Drew Brees is in new Orleans, the bread of the Saints offense is in the passing game. I’d put New Orleans’ running game at about 15.
In Week Four Carolina plays against the 12th-ranked Chicago Bears‘ running game. Adding Chester Taylor to their roster was probably a solid move, especially since Chicago took Taylor away from the Minnesota Vikings. Alas, not much about the Bears really strikes fear into my heart. They possibly shored up the defense — when Julius Peppers wants to perform — and the Bears offense is … should be better than what it was last year.
I still see Chester Taylor as a situational running back, as he’s only surpassed 400-yards rushing the last couple of years. Perhaps Matt Forte will be something more of an answer to the Bears’ needing performance at running back.
The only teams where the running games give me cause for some concern are later in the season. If Michael Turner can stay healthy, the Atlanta Falcons are a team the Panthers run defense will have to try to contain. The same goes for a meeting with the Pittsburgh Steelers and a healthy Rashard Mendenhall. Last but not least, the Baltimore Ravens‘ running game can also provide lethal consequences to an unsteady run defense.
Again, the defensive secondary at this point is showing the most promise. The defensive front is the biggest question mark on Carolina’s D. Even middle linebacker Jon Beason seems a bit leery of the lack of size and experience. Emphasis on experience, however.
Of course in the end, we’ll see how everything pans out. Until then, the defensive front is Carolina’s first line of defense, and it needs to be the best unit it can be. Everette Brown is an integral cog in the wheel, but the defensive tackles amount to the grease that is needed to keep everything else running smoothly.
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