Back in March, Carolina Panthers general manager Scott Fitterer patted himself and the organization on the back for their work along the defensive line. When asked what he considered positions of strength for the team, he highlighted the trench—stating that the group is “really good” as its young standouts have continued to grow.
Pro Football Focus has a similar sentiment on the unit . . . but their outlook isn’t as peachy as Fitterer’s.
The site’s NFL analyst Ben Linsey continued his offseason rankings by turning to the league’s defensive lines. He categorizes Carolina in the “Relying on younger players to make a leap” tier, as the No. 24 bunch overall.
“The Panthers have an extremely young group along the defensive line,” Linsey writes. “The recently added Matt Ioannidis qualifies as a veteran at 28 years old. And Carolina needs those younger players to step up if the team wants to improve on its 5-12 record from last season.”
Defensive tackle DaQuan Jones, perhaps a bit of an unsung hero upfront for the team last year, headed up north to the Buffalo Bills earlier this spring (because of course he did) and left a void next to Brown. Hopefully for the Panthers, the addition of Ioannidis—who racked up 16.0 sacks between 2018 and 2019—plugs the hole.
But, there’s going to be a slightly more noticeable absence—particularly off the edge.
“The Haason Reddick and Morgan Fox losses put more pressure on third-year edge defender Yetur Gross-Matos, alongside Brian Burns and Derrick Brown, to provide a spark,” Linsey adds. “Gross-Matos has played fewer than 400 defensive snaps in each of his first two seasons with 20 or fewer quarterback pressures both years.”
Last week, defensive coordinator Phil Snow pointed to Gross-Matos and Marquis Haynes Sr. as the two most important patches in hiding the departure of Reddick. They’ll also be helped, presumably, by linebacker Frankie Luvu from the middle of the defense—another potential breakout player for 2022.
So, it’s all about potential.
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