It is a common sentiment in the Carolinas that the Carolina Panthers starting front seven (4 defensive linemen and 3 linebackers) is perhaps the best in the league. As it turns out, at least one other NFL team thinks so as well.
New England Patriots right tackle Marcus Cannon confirmed as much this week.
“Well, their front seven, they’re great,” right tackle Marcus Cannon said yesterday. “They’re probably the best in the NFL and we’ve got to do our due diligence this week of studying them and working hard to continue to do good. It’s going to be a challenge and . . . they’re really good.”
New England was beaten by the Denver Broncos in the AFC Championship game earlier this year in much the same fashion as how the Broncos beat the Panthers in the Superbowl, namely, they rushed the passer with reckless abandon. The Patriots see the Carolina Panthers preseason game this Friday as the first real test, the closest thing they will see to Denver’s front seven.
The Patriots are retooling their offensive line, which is considered a main concern for them in 2016. With Tom Brady suspended for four games, the Patriots protection of the quarterback becomes that much more important. Brady could overcome poor line play with quick decision making. Jimmy Garoppolo, not so much.
As for the Panthers, the starting front seven is the same as it was in the Superbowl. But with the emergence of Shaq Thompson this season, the unit could actually be much improved.
Considering New England gave up three sacks to the New Orleans Saints defense two weeks ago, the New England Patriots may have their hands full when they square off against the Panthers on Friday night.