Carolina Panthers: Creating An Elite 3-4 Front Seven?
By De White
After selecting Brian Burns with the 16th selection in the 2019 NFL Draft, the Carolina Panthers have continued to add impressive talent to the defensive front seven.
With talk of the team switching to a 3-4 defense, more than likely with the selection of Burns, the Panthers seem more equipped to handle the situation up front. With Kawann Short able to play inside and outside, adding in a natural nose tackle in Dontari Poe (though he didn’t post great numbers in the 2018-19 season), and having Mario Addison to control the third lineman position, Panthers have great starters in place as defensive lineman. Add in Kyle Love, the underachieving Vernon Butler, Bryan Cox Jr., and Efe Obada, and the Panthers also have decent depth to go along with the starting talent.
With Cox and Obada, the Panthers have good young players capable of playing the situational roles and spelling the starting players for moments at a time. Inside, the Panthers would have the productive veteran Love to provide stable breaks for Poe without much of a decline in play along with the declining Butler. Throw in long shot possibilities Elijah Qualls (practice squad, reserve contract), free agent signings Destiny Vaeao and TJ Barnes, and 2018 fourth round pick Marquis Haynes, and the Panthers have a few intriguing possibilities even behind the reservists. And this is before the end of the draft when the team may possibly select another tackle.
More from Cat Crave
- Ranking the top-five QB prospects the Panthers could draft in 2023
- 4 remaining Carolina Panthers cap crunches after Damien Wilson release
- Could Duce Staley help Carolina Panthers land Jamaal Williams in 2023?
- How much could the Carolina Panthers afford to offer Lamar Jackson?
- 4 Panthers rumors to emerge from 2023 NFL Scouting Combine
Secondly, the Panthers are well equipped to handle the 3-4 defense at linebacker position as well. You don’t assume the team drafts a player of Burn’s caliber just to sit him in a system that seems tailor made for his strengths and talents. Though he may not be a three down player from day one, adding Burns to a group that features Luke Kuechly, Shaq Thompson, and Bruce Irvin would only seem to develop his talents as well as giving him an opportunity to add to the effectiveness of the linebacker unit. With four talented and capable players covering a smaller area in addition to adding different looks and rushing packages, the Panthers could be looking at more impressive defensive numbers.
With a more athletic team than last year, the possibility is wide open. However, the x-factor for this unit would possibly be Thompson or Irvin. With Thompson, who is slated to fill the shoes of future Ring of Honor inductee Thomas Davis, he has to continue to play at a high enough level to warrant replacing a man of Davis’ stature. Irvin has possibly the biggest job in what could possibly be his only year in Charlotte.
Irvin has to not only play at a level that will keep him on the field, which shouldn’t be a problem, but he has to also help mentor the young Burns who has all the tools and traits to play a similar role that Irvin has played for most his career. Irvin has always been a hybrid player who can like up on the edge and rush as well as drop back in coverage and be a tremendous asset in each case, and that is exactly the same role that Burns played at Florida State University.
If Burns can learn from Irvin and have a similar career, then his selection and fit in the Panthers’ linebacker corps will be all the more perfect for the scheme change. Backing up the possible starters would be newly resigned Jared Norris, promising second year player Jermaine Carter Jr., Andre Smith, and longshots Brandon Chubb and Jonathan Celestin. Besides Norris and Carter Jr., depth is severely limited. So the team would hope to not see many injuries there or look to add depth wherever possible.
With all said, the team is looking good and full of hope for the new 2019-20 season that plans to rebound off a disappointing season.