One thing became crystal clear while watching Ron Rivera’s 2019 Carolina Panthers defense. They were quickly on the decline. What once was a swarming mass of men eager to get to the ball carrier had devolved into a complacent couch potato. Want to run up the middle for 20 yards? No problem, let me roll out the red carpet for you. The 2019 Carolina Panthers defense was among the worst in recent memory.
These days the Carolina Panthers defense doesn’t resemble the squad of last year. A total of eight rookies are currently on the defensive roster alone. Yes, you read that right. Eight rookies on defense, making it the youngest NFL defense in over a decade.
But are they talented? Let’s look at the most important cog in the defensive machine – the defensive line. On Sunday the Carolina Panthers released fan favorite Efe Obada. By all accounts Obada is genuinely a great guy with an inspirational story. Obada was also a Ron Rivera project that was able to hang on to a roster spot based purely on potential. Unfortunately for Obada, the skill level of the defensive line increased greatly this offseason. With the additions of Derrick Brown and Yetur Gross-Matos, two of college football’s best run stuffers, there is no longer room for a long shot project. The talent has clearly increased. There is no longer room for project players.
Of course, talent isn’t everything. What this defense lacks is experience and it will show. It will show early, and it will show often. The Carolina Panthers will lose plenty of games this season in part due to a poor defensive performance.
But for my money it is far more enjoyable watching a young defense that is progressing as opposed to an older defense that is regressing. The result may be the same, but the future is quite different.
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