2011 numbers: 27th in scoring defense (26.8 points per game), 28th (377.6 yards per game) in total defense.
Stopping the run was a huge issue last season, and a big reason for that was injuries up the middle. Three-time Pro Bowl inside linebacker Jon Beason was missed most after suffering a season-ending left Achilles' injury in Week 1. Before that blow, the Panthers lost newly signed starting tackle Ron Edwards to a torn triceps in training camp.
Both of those returning veterans will get help from youngsters around them. Third-year left end Greg Hardy and second-year tackle Terrell McClain will step into increased roles up front next to Edwards and top pass rusher Charles Johnson.
The linebackers, however will be the core playmakers of this defense, which shouldn't be a surprise on a Ron Rivera-coached team. Beason comes back as a tackling machine, and first-round pick Luke Kuechly will also cover plenty of ground. Kuechly's coverage skills and instincts against the pass will help the Panthers better control backs and tight ends—a must in the NFC South.
The Panthers retain a familiar secondary, but their near-wholesale changes in the front seven will make the difference.
This is the only positive article I have seen printed up about our defense. Good job, Sporting News!!!