The coach, the players, the mystery: The Carolina Panthers defense so far

After two preseason games, what do we know about this Carolina Panthers defense?
Donte Jackson
Donte Jackson / Jim Dedmon-USA TODAY Sports
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Is Carolina Panthers defense as bad as it's looked in the preseason?

After determining that the Carolina Panthers defense we’ve been watching shouldn’t be the one fans witness on meaningful Sundays (and a Monday and Thursday) – I’m also confident that this unit will be much more effective and aggressive.

Harking back to the portion discussing how the Panthers have only been deploying the basics in getting after the quarterback, we’ve also been doing so without the 21.5 sacks accumulated in 2022 between the two starting outside linebackers Brian Burns and Justin Houston. Oh, and some guy named Derrick Brown will be wreaking havoc on the defensive line.

Burns is an All-Pro caliber player and a legitimate threat to reach that peak this season. Houston is an efficient rotational pass rusher coming off the edge and a savvy veteran that has a knack for disrupting plays.

Albeit a player with lower expectations than those two I just brought up, Marquis Haynes Sr. returned to practice on Monday after missing the last few weeks with a back ailment. I’ve let my feelings on Haynes be known earlier this offseason and I stand firm on the belief that he’ll be a significant contributor on this defense, assuming his back tweak is a thing of the past.

The linebackers on this team - even in the limited reps of the preseason - have shown they are fast and play with the tenacity you want from the position.

Shaq Thompson has demonstrated his sideline-to-sideline athleticism. Frankie Luvu is a human bowling ball, knocking down any pin that stands between him and the pigskin. Training camp shining star Kamu Grugier-Hill has maintained his luster in preseason contests.

The secondary personnel, in my opinion, fits this potential defensive scheme like a cashmere glove. Jeremy Chinn is in line to function in the star/big nickel role, allowing him to play closer to the line of scrimmage where he’s found his best success as a pro.

Jaycee Horn possesses all the goods to be a top-10 player at the cornerback position, but it’s all about staying healthy for the former Gamecock. I also believe he’ll see some work being aligned in the nickel, as well, possibly engaging with top-tier tight ends and being sent after the quarterback.

Should Horn find himself away from his standard outside alignment, Donte Jackson, C.J. Henderson, and Keith Taylor Jr. all have shown ability on the boundary.

Jackson, in fact, should thrive in more zone looks. However - and stop me if you’ve heard this before - his success is directly tied to his ability to remain healthy and active on gameday.

Vonn Bell gave Panthers fans a glimpse of what he has been known for around the league, delivering a proper wallop to Giants tight end Darren Waller in the first quarter of last Friday’s matchup.

Aside from just his physicality and coverage abilities, the former Ohio State stud also has the experience and mind to effectively operate in the disguised coverages that Ejiro Evero relies on. If the coverage is showing the middle of the field open with two-high safeties but moves post snap into a closed look with Bell deep solo – he can hold his own in that assignment.