Panthers’ Mario Addison quietly emerging as an elite pass rusher

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It’s taken Panthers defensive end Mario Addison a long time to get noticed in the NFL.

The 31-year-old Addison entered the league as an undrafted rookie with the Bears in 2011, and he had zero sacks. He then went to Indianapolis and again had zero sacks. His next stop was Washington, and once again, no sacks. Carolina was his fourth NFL team, and the first where he managed to get one sack. Even by 2015, his fifth NFL season, he had only started three games in his career, and only recorded 10 sacks.

But in 2016, Addison emerged with a career-high 9.5 sacks. That was enough for the Panthers to sign him to a three-year, $22.5 million contract in the 2017 offseason, and he rewarded their investment with another career-high effort, 11 sacks last season.

This season Addison is playing even better. After his three-sack game on Sunday against the Buccaneers, he has 7.5 sacks on the season, putting him on pace for a career-high 15. And he’s leading a Panthers pass rush that is quietly one of the best in the NFL.

As a team the Panthers have recorded only 21 sacks this season, which ties them for 19th in the NFL. But sacks don’t tell the whole story. According to Chris Trapasso of the Buffalo News, using data compiled by Pro Football Focus, the Panthers’ defense actually ranks third in the NFL in pressure rate, getting pressure on 39 percent of the pass plays they face.

Addison is listed as questionable for tonight’s game against the Steelers, but he’s expected to play. Ben Roethlisberger had better be ready.