Silver Bullet: Panthers Need Edge Pressure – Among Other Needs by Adam Barton

Silver Bullet: Panthers Need Edge Pressure – Among Other Needs by Adam Barton
Reading Time: 2 minutes.

The Panthers were sitting pretty in the NFC South midway through the 2018 season at 6-2, competing with the Saints, before losing seven of their last eight games, the only win coming when the Saints were resting starters. Looking at their current roster, that seems more of a regression to the mean than anything.

Outside of QB, running back and MLB, the Panthers lack superstars across the board, with serviceable starters but most areas of the roster could be improved if the Panthers had the draft capital. Not only that, several of their key contributors – Greg Olsen, Bruce Irvin and Matt Paradis – are ageing fast, and that’s after losing Thomas Davis, Julius Peppers and Mike Adams already in the offseason. The primary areas of need are on the offensive line to protect Cam Newton, whose injuries are starting to pile up, pass rush and safety. The Panthers have seven picks to address these needs, with two third round picks but no seventh.

Drafting a top end lineman like Andre Dillard or Jonah Williams would allow them to build the offence into a more potent unit, they were slightly above average in 2018, largely thanks to their run game. A premier left tackle also enables them to judge whether Cam Newton can carry the offence as a pocket quarterback. They could start to build around Christian McCaffrey and DJ Moore but realistically more talent and game-breakers are needed later in this draft.

The need is bigger on defence though and that is why Clelin Ferrell is their silver bullet. Montez Sweat may have the physical attributes and will be hard to ignore but the Panthers need a surefire talent who lacks bust potential. A premier pass rusher could unlock this defence, as a team they ranked between 12th and 19th on most key defensive metrics and that needs to change if the Panthers want to make the playoffs. Ferrell doesn’t have the eye-popping athleticism of some in this class but he is well rounded, he sheds blocks well and is productive. Faced with a running back or QB, he is a finisher and his production at Clemson owes a lot to his effort throughout the play. That being said, it is yet to be seen if he can perform as the superstar especially at the next level, having played on the best defensive line in college football. Another name to consider would be Johnathan Abram, the best safety in the draft, who likely will be available at 16. He would be a good pickup but the Panthers need on both lines is too big to ignore.

The Panthers are a typical 8-8 team as it stands and they have to hit on every pick to challenge in a competitive NFC South. A bad 2019 season could see the end of Ron Rivera in Carolina but without Clelin Ferrell and addressing the offensive line, the Panthers will start 2019 as big outsiders in the NFC South.

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