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Panthers defensive improvement starts up front

Julius Peppers, Charles Johnson AP

One of the Panthers priorities the last two years has been to fix a pass-rush that wasn’t going to be the same after Julius Peppers left town.

While they don’t have big names, they are getting big numbers.

Defensive ends Charles Johnson and Greg Hardy have more sacks (14.0) than any duo in the NFC, and the Panthers are suddenly applying the pressure they need.

The fact both are different kinds of rushers helps, as both Hardy and Johnson can line up inside on third downs, and they’re more strength than speed on passing downs. Three of Hardy’s 6.5 sacks have come when he lined up as a defensive tackle.

“When you look at Greg and Charles combined where they are in the league with their sack numbers, it’s tough to find a better pair of defensive ends,” Panthers defensive coordinator Sean McDermott said, via Jonathan Jones of the Charlotte Observer. “And you have the fact that Greg moves inside for us, and he’s very unselfish with how he’s taken that and very professional. And we appreciate that. There aren’t a lot of ends that move inside and Greg, with his build and his mindset, has done a great job.”

But their impact lies beyond simple production. The Panthers lost a leader when linebacker Jon Beason went on injured reserve, and coach Ron Rivera asked Johnson, his highest-paid player, to step up.

“His personality has been great in terms of taking a leadership role,” Rivera said. “When Jon Beason was injured and we put him on IR, I asked Charles Johnson to take over as captain so he puts a C on his chest now.

“He’s been carrying himself like one ever since.”

Along with a suddenly stable middle of defensive tackles Dwan Edwards and Ron Edwards, and a young third-down rusher in Frank Alexander, the Panthers have talent up front they haven’t had in years, and that’s giving them a chance.

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4 Responses to “Panthers defensive improvement starts up front”
  1. pantherfan550 says: Nov 7, 2012 9:32 AM

    I still can’t believe how much money the Panthers gave CJ, but it is good to finally see he and Hardy start to make an impact.

    It is amazing how good a defensive can look when you get consistent pressure while rushing only four guys.

  2. pilot2011 says: Nov 7, 2012 10:49 AM

    now lets discuss how the Panthers have the 2 best defensive rookies on the field too, Luke Kuechly and Josh Norman- both leading all rookies in their respective positions.

  3. weekendatberniemadoffs says: Nov 7, 2012 10:53 AM

    The strength of our LB corp is apparent when the front 4 applies a successful pass rush, and that trickles down to less pressure on our corners, who may be weaker as a tandem, but are effective. Kuechly and Davis are superb together on the field, but more importantly, the D is exciting again.

  4. jgedgar70 says: Nov 7, 2012 2:18 PM

    pantherfan550 says:
    Nov 7, 2012 9:32 AM
    I still can’t believe how much money the Panthers gave CJ, but it is good to finally see he and Hardy start to make an impact.
    _____
    That is one of the issues that cost Marty Hurney his job. CJ is a Georgia boy that wants to play for the Falcons. (Remember him getting caught on Twitter out clubbing with his Falcons hat on?) Everybody knew that except Hurney, who found out during post-lockout negotiations. So he offered CJ double the money the Falcons could have given him as a free agent.

    So I suspect the increased production is partly motivated by the hope that the Falcons will do whatever they have to to get him from us. That’s fine with me, as long as it results in us winning games.

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