Panthers: Defensive line disrespected by Pro Football Focus

(Photo by Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images) Stephen Weatherly
(Photo by Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images) Stephen Weatherly /

The defensive front of the Carolina Panthers received a lowly ranking by Pro Football Focus ahead of the new season.

The Carolina Panthers are expecting big things from their defensive front in 2020. They have made some key additions in this area of the field during free agency and the NFL Draft. So it would be a surprise if the group didn’t make great strides next season.

Defensive coordinator Phil Snow will be relying on his front seven to produce the goods. The Panthers have plenty of questions to answer regarding their secondary. And if the defensive line can generate disruption consistently, it is going to give their overall prospects a huge boost.

Despite these encouraging moves, their prospects in 2020 are not exactly promising according to Pro Football Focus. In a recent feature ranking every NFL defensive line, Carolina’s unit was placed at No. 29 on the list. Only the Seattle Seahawks, New York Jets, and Miami Dolphins were ranked lower. And this does appear to be something of a slight given their expectations going into the campaign.

Top of Sam Monson’s list was the Pittsburgh Steelers, who were followed by the Philadelphia Eagles, Washington, and the San Francisco 49ers. The PFF writer highlighted the offseason of change in Carolina behind the decision. But added that there is a chance this group can make a lasting contribution if everything clicks right away.

"“Few franchises have undergone more change this offseason than the Carolina Panthers, and that extends to their defensive line. Every pick the team made in the 2019 draft was spent on defense — three of those picks were spent on defensive linemen, including first-round pick Derrick Brown.“The new additions will be joining stalwart Kawann Short and last season’s first-round pick Brian Burns. Short missed almost all of last season but was playing the best football of his career before that point, while Burns flashed pass-rush skills as a rookie. There are a lot of unknowns when it comes to this group, but there is a very believable scenario where the talent comes together quickly and makes them a very formidable unit to contend with.”"

Why the Carolina Panthers defensive front should be ranked higher

Although the Panthers’ defense struggled overall in 2019. They did get prolific pressure on the quarterback. However, the likes of Mario Addison, Bruce Irvin, and Vernon Butler have now moved on. And others will be tasked with filling the void.

There is nothing to suggest that Brian Burns, Stephen Weatherly, and Yetur Gross-Matos cannot get the same amount of success. And they should also have plenty of space to do damage with Kawann Short and Derrick Brown on the interior.

If Short returns to his 2018 form after missing most of last season with a torn rotator cuff, then this will be like having a new Pro Bowl-calibre signing. Moving back to a 4-3 base scheme is another plus for this group in terms of making strides in certain areas such as run defense.

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Things will not be helped by their lack of preseason activity. But this has the potential to impact the defensive line the least out of any other positional group. Their objectives have already been made clear during Carolina’s virtual OTAs. And it would not be a shock to see them hit the ground running.

Putting the Panthers at No. 29 on the list seems a little disrespectful considering the tools at their disposal. This will add further fuel to their fire as they prepare to take the field once again for training camp. And they have the potential to make this ranking look foolish by the end of the campaign.

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