Post-Draft Carolina Panthers Depth Chart Projection: Defense

A look at where things stand on the Panthers defense following the draft.
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DE

Starters - Brian Burns, Haason Reddick

Backups - Yetur Gross-Matos, Morgan Fox, Marquis Haynes, Christian Miller, Austin Larkin

Analysis - The signing of Haason Reddick gives the Panthers some flexibility defensively. Although I see him mainly lining up as an edge rusher, we could see some packages of him at linebacker at Gross-Matos with his hand in the dirt. Phil Snow will find a way to get the best eleven on the field but as far as defensive end goes, Carolina is in really good shape. 

DT

Starters - Derrick Brown, DaQuan Jones

Backup - Bravvion Roy, Daviyon Nixon, Phil Hoskins

Analysis - Despite the addition of DaQuan Jones in free agency and Daviyon Nixon and Phil Hoskins in the draft, I'm not sold that this group is strong enough. Brown is going to need some help on the inside or teams will just start double-teaming him like crazy. Look for Jones to be the most consistent player but one of the two rookies or Bravvion Roy will have to step up.

WILL

Starter - Shaq Thompson

Backup - Frankie Luvu, Jermaine Carter Jr. 

Analysis - The signing of Denzel Perryman allows Thompson to move back outside where he is more productive/comfortable. I think we will see Thompson get back to playing at the level we all know he is capable of. Frankie Luvu is a nice backup option that will be able to fill in at all three spots if needed but mainly on the outside. 

MIKE

Starter - Denzel Perryman

Backup - Paddy Fisher, Clay Johnston

Analysis - Perryman is a huge upgrade over Tahir Whitehead. The one question mark that comes with him is his ability to stay healthy. He's had some injury issues in the past but if he can stay on the field, he can be a force in the middle of this defense. As far as the backups are concerned, they may be inexperienced but I really like both Paddy Fisher and Clay Johnston. Fisher signed as an undrafted free agent this year and was a tackling machine at Northwestern. Both players are tough, gritty, hard-nosed, blue-collar types of guys which is exactly what you need at this position.

SAM

Starter - Jermaine Carter Jr.

Backup - Jeremy Chinn, Frankie Luvu

Analysis - I saw a lot of progression out of Jermaine Carter Jr. last year and thought he really came on strong toward the end of the season. He's earned a starting spot on the defense although I do see Jeremy Chinn working a lot in this position. 

CB

Starters - Donte Jackson, Jaycee Horn

Backups - A.J. Bouye, Rashaan Melvin, Troy Pride Jr., Stanley Thomas-Oliver III, Keith Taylor Jr.

Analysis - The battles for the two starting corner jobs will be some of the most heated competitions throughout training camp. Donte Jackson is the fastest corner in the league, A.J. Bouye has Pro Bowl talent, Jaycee Horn was the Panthers' 1st round pick in the 2021 NFL Draft, and Rashaan Melvin has proven to be a reliable corner in the league. That said, I think the safe bet is to put Horn and Jackson as the two starters and rotate in Bouye, Melvin, and the others. This room went from a weakness to a possible strength in a matter of two months. 

FS

Starter - Juston Burris

Backup - Myles Hartsfield, Kenny Robinson

Analysis - This is the one area of the defense that still needs a lot of work. I was really surprised to see the Panthers not draft a safety after not adding to the room in free agency. Not sure what exactly went into the thought process there but I don't think Burris is the answer long-term.

SS

Starter - Jeremy Chinn

Backup - Sam Franklin

Analysis - Pretty easy one here. Chinn is a special playmaker and after just one year, is already turning into one of the league's elite defenders. Franklin did a nice job filling in toward the back half of the season and impressed the coaching staff enough to where he should have a decent-sized role this upcoming season.

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