Carolina Panthers OLB competition
Another area that became low on the Carolina Panthers' list of priorities much to everyone's surprise was the pass-rushing options opposite Brian Burns. Many expected the organization to address this urgently during the offseason, but only third-round selection D.J. Johnson came into the building as those in power move forward with what they had.
Much like the cornerback room, this is a major gamble. The Panthers believe that certain players can progress rapidly with high-caliber NFL coaching for the first time, with Ejiro Evero's exceptional defensive mind another element that could bring about an upturn in production.
After their bedding-on period during voluntary OTAs, we might begin to see who's winning the race to become Carolina's second outside linebacker in Evero's 3-4 front. Marquis Haynes Sr. and Yetur Gross-Matos appear to be the likeliest candidates, although Amare Barno will also fancy his chances after flashing with limited involvement as a rookie.
Johnson is the wildcard with the athletic profile to make a difference. However, the former Oregon star remains a work in progress despite being older than most first-year pros, so asking him to take prominent starting reps immediately is asking for trouble.
This is something the Panthers have to get right. They can ill afford a lack of pressure piling further pressure on Burns, who put up remarkable numbers last season when one considers the extra attention coming his way from opposing protection schemes.
Evero knows what he's doing. And fans should find out more about what the plan is throughout Carolina's mandatory minicamp.