2020 Carolina Panthers Defensive Line Preview

Schuyler Callihan

In 2019, the Carolina Panthers were successful at getting to the quarterback, but were dreadful in stopping the run. This offseason, a complete overhaul of the defensive line was made in hopes of putting better production on the field as a unit. Dontari Poe, Gerald McCoy, Vernon Butler Jr., Kyle Love, Mario Addison, and others are no longer with the organization, while Derrick Brown and Yetur Gross-Matos were drafted in the first two rounds and Zach Kerr and Stephen Weatherly were notable free agent signings. 

Can the Panthers defensive line produce better results in 2020? Let's look at the big guys up front and how we see things playing out for them this season.

Defensive End 

Yetur Gross-Matos - Gross-Matos is a freak. There's just no better way to put it. He is super athletic and has abnormal strength. He has great length and uses it to his advantage to cause havoc in the backfield. He struggles defending the run, but isn't anything that comes off as alarming. He's just a guy that knows to go get the quarterback and make a play. Once he becomes more disciplined, he won't be overaggressive and miss the easy plays. There's a lot to work with in Gross-Matos. Much of his game is already developed, he just has a few tweaks he needs to make before becoming the complete package.

Stephen Weatherly - Weatherly isn't your typical defensive end. He'll line up inside, outside, stand up off the edge, drop in coverage (if needed), he can do a little bit of everything. He's a versatile guy that Phil Snow will be able to move around, but don't look for him to post double-digit sacks numbers. He's going to be a quality defender and solid tackler, but has a ways to go before he can be considered a serious threat off the edge.

Zach Kerr - The 29 year old defensive lineman is listed as a defensive end on the team's official roster, but I see him being used more at tackle. He's got a big, thick, yet powerful frame that allows him to clog up holes in the run game. He's not much of a pass rusher, only totaling 7.5 sacks during his six year NFL career and has typically been a rotational guy. Kerr has appeared in 75 games, making just 12 starts. 

Davonte Lambert - The former Tampa Bay Buccaneer recently played in the XFL with the St. Louis BattleHawks and regained the attention of NFL scouts. In five games in the XFL, Lambert registered seven tackles, one tackle for loss, and one QB hit. He's not a lock to make the 53-man roster, so it will be extremely important for him to have a good enough training camp to earn the trust of the coaching staff.

Efe Obada - For his size, Obada can move around really well. He's not just an athletic freak, he's quick, has really good upper body strength. Matt Rhule believes he is someone who can move around a little bit on the defensive line and I think that in itself is Obada's best quality - he's versatile. I don't see him ever becoming a starter on this defense, but he will be able to contribute and make plays coming off the bench. There is still a lot of work to be done with his game, but he's coming around.

Defensive Tackle

Kawann Short - The Panthers were 28th in rushing defense in 2019 and one big factor into that? No Kawann Short. He suffered a partially torn rotator cuff in week two vs the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and was forced to miss the remainder of the season. Short is the most experienced and longest-tenured player on the Panthers defense. With several key players no longer in the organization, it will be pivotal for Short to take a massive leadership role and help guide the newcomers while they get their feet wet. 

Derrick Brown - There's only so much you can say about Derrick Brown. This guy has it all. Albeit just a rookie, Brown should have a major impact on the Panthers defense in 2020. He possesses great upper and lower body strength and moves better than someone should at his size (6'5", 326 lbs). Is he going to post ridiculous sack numbers? Probably not, but you can expect opposing offenses to center their attention on he and Short, which will allow for the edge rushers and linebackers to make plays in the backfield.

Bravvion Roy - Roy didn't really show NFL potential until this past season, where he burst onto the scene racking up 61 tackles, 13 tackles for loss, and 5.5 sacks. The sack numbers are pretty impressive for a guy that is mainly on the field to disrupt the rushing attack. He has quick jump off the line of scrimmage, strong hands, and tremendous lower body strength. Playing in Phil Snow's scheme gives him an advantage over some of the other linemen and could lead to Roy seeing the field more often early in his rookie season.

Woodrow Hamilton - Without a preseason slate, I find it very difficult for Hamilton to make the Panthers 53-man roster. Not that he can't,  but it certainly puts him on the outside, looking in. He's only played in two games in his career and wasn't all that impressive during those outings. He's got the chance to develop into a rotational sub, but with Brown, Short, and Roy on the roster, there's not going to be much playing time left for him.

What do you think about the Carolina Panthers defensive line for the 2020 season? Let us know your thoughts in the comment section below and discuss!

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