5 eye-popping Carolina Panthers surprises at their 2022 bye week

(Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports) Ikem Ekwonu
(Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports) Ikem Ekwonu /
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Carolina Panthers
(Jim Dedmon-USA TODAY Sports) Derrick Brown /

Derrick Brown – Carolina Panthers DT

This was going to be a key season for Derrick Brown. The former Auburn stud was the Carolina Panthers’ first-round pick in 2020 and the defensive tackle was expected to grow into an elite force under the mentorship of veteran Kawann Short.

An injury to Short in Brown’s rookie year thrust the No. 7 overall selection into the spotlight earlier than anticipated. What followed over the next two seasons was solid if not spectacular production as the player suffered from not having a true pass-rushing threat alongside him.

The Panthers were eagerly awaiting improvements this season before deciding to pick up Brown’s fifth-year option. After a tough season opener against the Cleveland Browns, questions were being leveled at the lineman and whether he was ready to step up.

What has followed since this has been exactly what the doctor ordered. Brown has grown into one of the best defensive tackles in the league, forming a solid partnership with Matt Ioannidis for good measure.

Brown has elevated his game to a borderline elite level. His 85.5 grade from Pro Football Focus is the team’s highest and No. 7 out of 125 eligible defensive linemen, which is thanks to his ability to constantly create havoc at the line of scrimmage.

It goes without saying that the Panthers’ will pick up Brown’s fifth-year option in the offseason. If the same level of play continues in 2023, he’ll be deserving of the bumper contract extension coming his way.