Do the Carolina Panthers have enough on DL?
I had a tough time choosing between the offensive line and the defensive line for my final storyline. But considering the opponent and the potential problems their personnel and styles may drum up – I’ve landed on the defensive front.
Before all these new headaches came about, my biggest concern approaching the regular season was the depth of the interior defensive line and how Ejiro Evero's defense overall would fare against the run. That concern hasn’t faded, it’s just simply moved down the pecking order thanks to previously stated headaches.
The Carolina Panthers depth chart lists Derrick Brown, Shy Tuttle, and DeShawn Williams as the starters on the defensive front. That would be the look coming out in a base 3-4 scheme, but we’ve already discussed how that may not be as often as one might expect.
The second unit is listed as LaBryan Ray, Nick Thurman, and LaBryan Ray. Not a typo, that’s the depth chart. This unit is thin, and Williams was listed as a DNP for Wednesday’s practice due to an illness.
Henry Anderson was penciled in to be a productive player along the front this season, as he has valuable experience on the outside and inside. He found himself on the season-ending injured/reserve last week after suffering a foot injury in the preseason loss to the New York Jets.
Yes, the team can elevate a couple of practice squad players each week and could be likely to bring up a defensive lineman if the current situation holds up. But even in that case, it feels fair to feel less than enthused about a lighter defensive front facing a Week 1 opponent who would be happier than a dog with two tails to carry the football 40+ times in this contest.
I anticipate the Atlanta Falcons will try their hardest not to become reliant on their inexperienced, non-captain quarterback. Unfortunately for the Panthers and this defensive line, that will present itself in the form of smashmouth, repetitive running of the football.
It’s not all despair, just to be clear. I’m excited to see Brown get usage all over the front. And I think the run defense will get support from the second and third-level defenders, as well. I also feel very positively about the emergence of big nickel Jeremy Chinn.
There just has been a great emphasis on building the defensive line with versatility in mind and with players that could get after the opponent's signal-caller. This defense will face a nice litmus test right out of the gate as to whether that’s an effective build strategy.