Coach Washington’s ‘D’ is tight, and oh yeah, pretty right (Bwah-ha-ha-ha!)

CHARLOTTE, NC - CIRCA 2011: In this handout image provided by the NFL, Eric Washington of the Carolina Panthers poses for his NFL headshot circa 2011 in Charlotte, North Carolina. (Photo by NFL via Getty Images)
CHARLOTTE, NC - CIRCA 2011: In this handout image provided by the NFL, Eric Washington of the Carolina Panthers poses for his NFL headshot circa 2011 in Charlotte, North Carolina. (Photo by NFL via Getty Images) /

Carolina Panthers defense flying under the radar a bit this preseason…

For all the concerns this preseason about the Carolina Panthers offensive line, since OTAs there’s been an attitude—professed loudly by high-engine defensive end Mario Addison (he and Julius Peppers had 11.5 sacks each in 2017)– about the Panthers not getting the attention befitting a No. 7 ranked defense and consistent 50-sack outfit now defensive coordinator Eric Washington built as line coach for seven years. The bwah-ha-ha!  evil laugh comes with the knowledge that Peppers is ready to play when it counts, which is essentially now.

If Kawann Short, Dontari Poe, Shaq Thompson, Luke Kuechly and Addison- oh yeah, and that Peppers guy- were to pummel the Cowboys to start the season, apparently that would really surprise many people outside of Charlotte. Maybe not long-time studio host Howie Long, who can sniff a good pass rush when he sees it, but that ranking Addison hasn’t forgotten (‘Not in the top 12?!’) must be righteously pounded into oblivion. Starting early, at home against a quarterback who had the league on a string two years ago is legitimate, and we’ll see if Dak Prescott has something extra going in his third year. There are going to be important position battles-jobs earned against Pittsburgh on Thursday, pointing for opener is the deal though.

It took the Panthers several years to beat Russell Wilson’s brand of quickness, several losses to Seahawks being of the 13-9 variety, with two top defenses knocking heads. That could well be the defensive mentality again, and Washington has pushed Kuechly and company on SCORING this year- 2017 Panthers defense only had ten interceptions, and Kuechly (3 INTs) was only player to cash in a turnover. Dallas has had some offensive line flux too, we’ll see how mobile Prescott is if/when the secondary sticks to people long enough for blitzers to arrive, because PRESSURE is what Washington wants dialed up and on the scoreboard.

Ask Addison how he feels September 10 about what people are saying regarding the Panthers pass rush and run-stoppers. Prove something? Yeah, why not stuff people, like that “no first downs here!” whack by Donte Jackson that turned Tom Brady’s first time onto the field into a three-and-out last week?  You *knew* he wouldn’t be playing back like he did last game– Jackson is going to want to impress his SEC credentials on tackling and covering receivers personally. Like every time he’s on the field- believe it.

What need be said about Poe –  Early on in Spartanburg’s heat, it became evident that when Poe fills a hole, about everyone in the stadium will know it’s filled, especially running backs. Even from sixth row upper deck, you can see he and Short have been pushing and folding people into piles, and those early field goals by Miami were good examples of a middle holding its turf. That measly 28 yards on 11 carries for Patriots, that is proving something, even in preseason.

light. Related Story. Poe More Than Average

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Shaq Thompsonboy howdy! can he bring it, but nobody has ever really questioned his ability, only the ‘What if?’ that came up because he was playing behind Thomas Davis. These first four games with Davis’ suspension figure to be very closely watched. Remember Kuechly when he started busting every play? Going to look like that in stereo with Thompson. Both linebackers got pieces of several tackles against New England. Although Thompson got five solos with two sacks, Luuuuke! is just always first or second to the ball.

Talk about a hitter who has kept coaches interest, Lorenzo Doss has been showing very well at every opportunity, making open field tackles in secondary, and good things continue to happen with Rashaan Gaulden– his approval rating vs. mistakes is pretty high. David Mayo is another linebacker who has done everything asked of him while improving in the system. Having seen just one day of training camp in Spartanburg, following what’s been said about the defense being all over the quarterbacks for interceptions (Garrett Gilbert and Taylor Heinicke both had tough Mondays three weeks ago), and the three games so far, those ideas about competition and ‘iron sharpens iron’ that Rivera likes are working defensively.

As for season opener, well, the No. 2 quarterback will probably be determined on Thursday, but relax people, even before seeing Cam Newton get bounced on his head early against Patriots, Panthers were going to be keeping three quarterbacks.

Next. Final Roster Bubble Watch. dark

As defensive coordinator, Washington on the sidelines is a VERY serious member of the Panthers staff. Rivera can look hard focused, Washington is someone you’d *better* pay attention to. While the fans will be cheering for the offensive production that seems very, very real, word should be out about Panthers laying some licks on people. Stay turned for September.