Do the Panthers Have Enough Defensively?

Schuyler Callihan

The NFC South division may have the most offensive firepower in the NFL and one could argue that no other division is remotely close. The Panthers watched the Falcons, Saints, and Buccaneers load up on talent at running back, receiver, and even quarterback and knew immediately that they had to take action. During free agency, Carolina added Robby Anderson to an already dangerous receiving corps that consists of D.J. Moore and Curtis Samuel. In addition to that, they also brought in Teddy Bridgewater to lead the offense as the new starting quarterback and added key linemen up front such as Michael Schofield, John Miller, and Russell Okung. 

To win in the NFC South in 2020, you have to be able to put up points and put them up in bunches - there's no secret about that. However, it's going to come down to which of the four teams is equipped with the best defense to pair with their respective offensive attack that will allow them to separate themselves from others in the division. Aside from the Saints, the rest of the division is shaky on the defensive side. With that said, do the Panthers have enough on defense to help win games? Let's take a look at where things stand after several moves were made this offseason.

Key Additions: DL Derrick Brown, DL Yetur Gross-Matos, DL Stephen Weatherly, LB Tahir Whitehead, CB Eli Apple, S Juston Burris, S Jeremy Chinn.

Key Losses: DL Gerald McCoy, DL Dontari Poe, DL Vernon Butler, LB Luke Kuechly, LB Mario Addison, LB Bruce Irvin, CB James Bradberry, S Eric Reid.

Top Available Free Agents: DL Jadeveon Clowney, DL Marcell Dareus, LB Alec Ogletree, LB Kareem Martin, LB Mychal Kendricks, LB Darron Lee, CB Dre Kirkpatrick, CB Logan Ryan, CB Darqueze Dennard, S Tony Jefferson.

Defensive Needs: Depth at interior DL, Depth at MLB, Starter at OLB, Starter at CB.

Carolina had to make wholesale changes after the defense was 28th in the NFL against the run and not to mention, was an aging, overpaid unit. The defensive line should be in decent shape with Derrick Brown and Kawann Short manning the middle, but the edge is where things get a bit dicey. Can Stephen Weatherly excel in a starting role? Will Yetur Gross-Matos be able to make an impact in his rookie year? Those are two big question marks for this Panthers defense heading into the 2020 season.

At linebacker, the Panthers lost Luke Kuechly to retirement, but have a solid replacement with Tahir Whitehead. He, alongside Shaq Thompson should be nice tandem in the second level. Brian Burns will need to be more consistent in rushing the passer if the Panthers want to take a big step forward. 

In the secondary, Carolina is extremely young, thin, and short on reliable guys, at least at the moment. When you have so many young players, it can be very concerning - especially when you have to cover some of the league's best in Julio Jones, Michael Thomas, Mike Evans, etc.

There are certainly some glaring holes in the Panthers defense, whether it be among the starting unit or in the two-deep. Unfortunately, the Panthers don't have much wiggle room in cap space and most of the top available free agents are going to come with a pretty hefty price tag. With the defense as it stands, they should be at least the third best in the NFC South with the ceiling of being No. 2. So, do the Panthers have enough defensively? Short answer: no, they don't. This isn't a group that will help contend for a playoff spot, but isn't going to be the worst defense in the league. They are better off not adding much if anything on that side of the ball and just stand pat until they reach the 2021 offseason.

Do you think the Panthers have enough defensively to help win games in 2020? Let us know your thoughts in the comment section below!

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