5 Carolina Panthers who aren't safe with Dave Canales as head coach

Big changes could be coming under new head coach Dave Canales.

Dave Canales
Dave Canales / Jim Dedmon-USA TODAY Sports
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D.J. Johnson - Carolina Panthers OLB

When the Carolina Panthers took the difficult decision to trade star running back Christian McCaffrey, it was vital those in power made use of their newfound assets. Two of those selections were used to trade up and select edge rusher D.J. Johnson at No. 80 overall in the 2023 NFL Draft.

This was a reactionary selection with pass-rushers flying off their board. It seems like Johnson was the last one remaining by all accounts. It led to general manager Scott Fitterer making a desperate move up the order to ensure they had someone for the edge despite most analysts projecting the Oregon prospect to be a Day 3 pick or even go undrafted.

Johnson struggled accordingly. From 29 percent of Carolina's defensive snaps, the third-round selection notched one pressure, zero sacks, and zero quarterback hits. He struggled to find his footing and became easily exposed. There were flashes of promise against the run, but the concerns surrounding the pick reared their ugly head in no uncertain terms.

It's worth remembering that Dan Morgan was part of the brain trust that traded up for Johnson, although he was less enthused than others upon further investigation. This is a critical offseason for the player, who's already older than most NFL sophomores at 25 years old.

If Dave Canales and Ejiro Evero - if the defensive coordinator sticks around - don't like what they see from Johnson in terms of second-year growth, the Panthers might cut their losses. That might sound harsh after just one season, but this was a bad choice at the time and even more so now.