The Carolina Panthers run defense should have a solid year…
Thursday, Pro Football Focus put out a report ranking the run defenses in the National Football League from best to worst. The Carolina Panthers were well-represented in this ranking, recognized in the middle of the pack at No. 19.
The report focused on three players: Luke Kuechly, Kawaan Short, and Shaq Thompson. Kuechly had the highest grade among the three defenders with a 92 run defense grade. The analysis, done by Pro Football Focus’s Analysis team was as follows.
"The Panthers are another team that quite obviously prioritizes athleticism and coverage from their linebackers over downhill run-stuffing ability. There’s still no better linebacker against the run though than Kuechly who once again earned a 92.0 run defense grade last season. Their front-four is keyed by Short who earned a near-elite run-defense grade himself."
The front four figures to be even better in the 2018 campaign, with Dontari Poe added to the mix. Although he recorded only 23 tackles in 16 games last season, he has the potential to reach at least 30 tackles in 2018. The last time he reached that mark was in 2014 when he registered 38. It is worth noting that he came close the following year when he notched 29. This figures to be a big season for him.
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Kuechly is one of the most versatile linebackers in the game today. The one knock on him is his health. If he can stay concussion-free throughout the entire season, there is no reason why he can’t have another big year. He can attack the football and drop back in coverage if need be.
Short is coming off a very good season as well. He recorded 27 tackles last year and proved he could be a valuable force on the defensive line. He has proven to be a dependable run-stopper and is finally beginning to get the recognition he deserves.
Shaq Thompson is an interesting case. His tackle numbers were down last season from 2016 (37 to 39 the prior year.) However, his two sacks were the highest amount of his career to date. It should be reasonable to expect that he will have a season that was better than last year given the fact that his play has seen an increase in production in one way or another.
The bottom line is that the Carolina Panthers run defense should be slightly higher than No. 19 by the end of the season. They have the talent to really make an impact, and with several players on the rise 2018 looks to be a very good year. The run defense will have to be on point as the division itself has a slew of talented running backs.