Predicting the Panthers 2016 Starters & Backups
Starter: Kawann Short
One of the deepest positions on the Panthers roster is at defensive tackle where All-Pro second teamer Kawann Short leads the way. With an 11 sack performance in 2015, Short established himself as one of the league’s top defensive tackles and will need to build off of that to secure that designation. While contract negotiations between Short and the Panthers have gotten sticky, don’t expect anything to deter Short from going into 2016 as a dominant force.
Backup: Vernon Butler
The Panthers decided to beef up their defensive front even further in the first round of this year’s draft by selecting Vernon Butler, a versatile, interior pass rusher. While he’ll likely need some time to adjust to NFL linemen, Butler should see plenty of chances to contribute and produce in his first season.
Starter: Star Lotulelei
Carolina’s second starting defensive tackle is a run-stopper in Star Lotulelei. As a draft-mate to Short, Lotulelei is the perfect complement to his teammate’s pass rushing talents. He may be limited in pass rushing abilities, but Lotulelei’s space-eating talent makes him a key cog in the Panthers stout front seven.
Backup: Paul Soliai
With Butler being the pass rusher behind Short, newly acquired Paul Soliai is the run stuffer behind Lotulelei. With nine years of NFL experience, Soliai is the Panthers’ most senior member along the defensive line and has been a productive defender against the run in a similar mold to Lotulelei and should give Carolina another valuable backup option at defensive tackle.
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