How much better can stud defensive tackle Derrick Brown get for the Carolina Panthers in 2021 following an outstanding rookie campaign?
If the Carolina Panthers want to stand a chance of mounting a postseason challenge of any kind in 2021, they need their young studs to raise their games considerably this offseason. This bears more significance on the defensive side of the ball, which saw plenty of exciting prospects make their presence felt to leave plenty of reasons to be encouraged moving forward.
Much will depend on what strides each of them makes in the weeks and months ahead before Carolina gets back down to business next season. But considering how much the Panthers have strengthened on defense during their first few moves in free agency, this could become one of the league’s most formidable outfits when it’s all said and done.
One cornerstone behind any success that comes Carolina’s way is Derrick Brown. The defensive tackle proved more than worthy of the No. 7 overall selection in 2020 with an exceptional rookie season, with the former Auburn standout set to get even better thanks to some significant reinforcements to the front seven since the campaign came to a conclusion.
Brown needs to make some improvements stopping the run. But this normally comes on with more experience and the way he generated pressure in opposing backfields – a big question mark coming out of college – was incredibly pleasing.
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Carolina Panthers have a star on their hands in Derrick Brown.
When one looks at Brown, it’s hard to see a player who brings aggressiveness and violence in equal measure on almost every down.
He was one of the most double-teamed defensive tackles in football in Year 1 of his professional career, which is a further testament to the respect Brown has generated in such a short space of time.
Although Kawann Short and Zach Kerr were released as part of cost-cutting measures and Efe Obada left in free agency for the Buffalo Bills, Carolina still has a wealth of options available to put alongside Brown and help their best interior presence build on his positive momentum next time around.
Having Brian Burns, Yetur Gross-Matos, and Haason Reddick off the edge will be a massive help. Couple this with the acquisition of Morgan Fox from the Los Angeles Rams as a three-technique and it’s hard to see a scenario where Brown regresses next season.
Carolina will strengthen with another veteran or 2021 NFL Draft prospect that fits the mold of a stereotypical defensive tackle more than Fox, who is an interior pass-rushing specialist and offers little in the way of run support.
It is just a case of fine-tuning on the defensive front at this point. A strong cornerback to put alongside Donte Jackson is more of a priority and whether the Panthers want to get a long-term option at safety to tandem with Jeremy Chinn is another option worth considering.
As for Brown, the sky is the limit.
He is a high-character individual who fits into what Matt Rhule is trying to install across the franchise. So another offseason period of hard work and refinement is going to benefit both the player and the organization considerably.
Brown’s ceiling is a Pro Bowl selection in 2021, that isn’t up for debate. Whether he can achieve this is another matter entirely.