How much progress can Panthers DE Yetur Gross-Matos make in 2022?

(Jim Dedmon-USA TODAY Sports) Yetur Gross-Matos
(Jim Dedmon-USA TODAY Sports) Yetur Gross-Matos /

How much progress could Carolina Panthers’ defensive end Yetur Gross-Matos make heading into a huge important 2022 season for the player?

After deciding not to match the offer Haason Reddick received from the Philadelphia Eagles in free agency, the Carolina Panthers will be banking on big things from Yetur Gross-Matos in 2022.

The defensive end has flashed real promise over his first two years in the league. Providing everything goes smoothly during the upcoming preparation period, a huge campaign could be in the offing next time around.

The Panthers did not spend big on the edge position in free agency this offseason and waited until the sixth round of the 2022 NFL Draft to acquire another body from the college ranks. This is sure to be another huge confidence boost for Gross-Matos, who has the size and explosiveness to make a real impact if everything comes together.

Carolina felt like they got a real steal in the 2020 draft when Gross-Matos fell out of the first round and into their laps at No. 38 overall. The former Penn State sensation has had some injury problems and COVID-19 complications to overcome, but his level of consistency across the defensive front last season leaves many reasons to be encouraged.

Gross-Matos proved to be a stout presence against the run more often than not. There were also improvements made in generating pressure en route to 3.5 sacks, 28 tackles, five tackles for loss, one forced fumble, four quarterback hits, and seven pressures from just 38 percent of the team’s defensive snaps.

Yetur Gross-Matos could thrive for the Carolina Panthers in 2022

If Gross-Matos gets the starting gig opposite Brian Burns as expected, it’s going to be a substantial upturn in reps to anything else he’s experienced so far. What he manages to produce in a more prominent role will tell us plenty about what the Panthers can expect from the player moving forward.

There is also the versatility factor where Gross-Matos is concerned.

The Panthers used him heavily as a three-technique on the interior in obvious pass-rushing situations last season. This is another string to his bow that Phil Snow could utilize in 2022.

This all comes down to whether Gross-Matos can remain healthy and focused. Year 3 is normally the time when defensive linemen make significant strides, so it would be a major disappointment if he was unable to meet increased targets.

Carolina does have the salary-cap space to bring in another veteran defensive end should they wish. Re-signing Marquis Haynes in free agency might come with more involvement from the Ole Miss product along the way.

The upcoming season will be an audition of sorts for Gross-Matos.

Carolina placed a lot of faith in the lineman by bringing him into the fold, to begin with. Now is the time to start repaying this where it counts.

Every little will help the Panthers during their obvious crossroads campaign in 2022. If Gross-Matos can replicate some of Reddick’s production – although 11 sacks might be asking too much – then the better their chances will be.

The talent is there. We’ve seen that already.

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But finding the right formula to be consistent week-in and week-out is the biggest remaining obstacle in Gross-Matos’ path.