The Panthers really, really sucked last season. They literally had the worst offense, with it ranking 32nd in the NFL at 12.2 points per game. To compliment the offense, the defense was almost equally horrendous. The defense allowed 25.5 points per game, finishing 26th in scoring defense. With the two together, the Panthers had a -212 points differential, losing on average by 13.2 points a game.
Obviously, the Panthers need a big time change, and fast. Their biggest holes are quarterback, wide receivers, interior offensive linemen, defensive linemen, and cornerbacks. Unfortunately, golden boy Andrew Luck did not enter the draft for the Panthers to pick. That isn't to say there is a lack of talent to choose from. The big three that the Panthers will be looking at are wide receiver A.J. Green, defensive end Da'Quan Bowers, and defensive tackle Nick Fairly. Green is probably the best offensive player in this year's draft, with scouts comparing him to the likes of Randy Moss and Calvin Johnson. Bowers is the best defensive end in the draft, while Fairley is the best defensive tackle in the draft.
More after the jump...
Ultimately, the Panthers choose to help boost their biggest need over the last four years: the run defense. Since 2007, the Panthers have ranked 18th, 20th, 22nd, and 23rd in run defense. The main excuse for the poor run defense is the poor defensive tackle play. Part of that reason is that the Panthers have never spent a first round pick on a defensive tackle in their 15 years of existence. The best way to boost a run defense is to have good defensive tackle play, just ask the Eagles that after grabbing Mike Patterson and Brodrick Bunkley in consecutive drafts.
A good run defense is something that Fairley will bring with him. The dude is a great tackler, fundamentally sound. He is strong enough to over muscle a blocker one-on-one to get to the ball carrier. Evidence of that are the 24 tackles for losses Fairley recorded in Auburn's championship season. Multiple players need to block him to stop Fairley, which will wind up opening opportunities for other defensive players.
Plus Fairley is a two-in-one package. Not only can he stop the run, he can rush the passer well. He had 11.5 sacks a season ago to go along with his 24 tackles for loss. He is quick enough to get a good first step and has the strength to get around blockers and grab the quarterback for a sack.
The biggest knock on Fairley is his mean streak and work ethics. He does get to the quarterback a lot, but some of the times he gets to them after the whistle. That is not going to fly in the NFL, where quarterbacks are sacred beings. Continuing to do that is going to earn him a lot of 15 yard penalties. Then there his work ethics: he takes plays off. Carolina understand this, Julius Peppers took plays off in his eight year stint there. They will get some of that with Fairley.
Still, with a good defensive head coach in Ron Rivera, these problems could be ironed out. That, and with his great talent, Fairley will make Panthers’ defensive line a respectable line and help turn around the defense.
Next on the clock will be kingmcnabb5 with the Denver Broncos.