Now that the NFL Draft has come and gone, the Carolina Panthers were able to successfully fill large holes in their defensive unit. Each of their seven draft picks were used on the defensive side of the ball with the intention of utilizing their skills very early and often this upcoming season. Panthers fans are curious to whom will start at each position and which guys are able to play more than one position.
Below is the projected depth chart for the defense:
Left Defensive End: Stephen Weatherly, Yetur Gross-Matos, Efe Obada, Chris Smith
Weatherly will be the starter for the first game, but don't be surprised if Gross-Matos is the new starter by the middle of the season. Nothing against Weatherly, but Gross-Matos's motor combined with his speed and strength will be vital for this Panthers defense to be successful.
Defensive Tackle: Kawann Short, Derrick Brown, Woodrow Hamilton, Zack Kerr, Bravvion Roy
Short and Brown should both start together as Phil Snow will look to utilize both of these guys at the same time. Drafting Roy allows the coaching staff to now have a few viable options for subs throughout the game and still have guys that can come in and make the same impact. Opposing offenses will be forced to run outside because with this unit clogging the middle, there will be zero chance for running backs to make it through.
Right Defensive End: Brian Burns, Christian Miller, Marquis Haynes
Burns is now entering his second season and is expected to make a large leap this year. Coming back stronger and faster, along with a full year of experience, Burns should put up big numbers in 2020. Panthers fans should be exciting to see Burns, Short, Brown, and Gross-Matos on the field at the same time as this group could be argued in favor of the best defensive line in the NFC South.
Outside Linebacker: Shaq Thompson, Jermaine Carter Jr., Jordan Kunaszyk
The majority of Panthers fans thought that Isaiah Simmons would be the pick at number seven to go alongside Shaq Thompson. The Carolina coaching staff must have thought that there was a bigger need at defensive tackle and put trust in this group of linebackers. Thompson will be the leader of this unit as Carter Jr. and Kunaszyk will fill in when needed.
Middle Linebacker: Tahir Whitehead, Andre Smith
Now that Luke Keuchly has retired, Panthers fans assumed that the team would address this position in the draft. The coaching staff has a lot of faith in this linebacker unit and believes that they can get the job done. Whitehead and Smith will split time, but Whitehead will get the more important snaps towards the end of games. The Panthers did sign five undrafted free agents at the linebacker position and should most likely sign at least of them.
Cornerback: Donte Jackson, Troy Pride Jr., Corn Elder, Cole Luke, Stanley Thomas-Oliver III, Dominique Hatfield
The young secondary will look much different now that James Bradberry has left the team. Donte Jackson will now be the "lockdown corner" and be matched up against opposing team's number one receiver. The Panthers drafted Pride Jr. and Thomas-Oliver and both will get playing time early on. Pride Jr. should be the starter along with Jackson to start the season.
Free Safety: Tre Boston, Kenny Robinson
Boston is the vocal leader of this defense and will most likely play the most snaps of anyone else on the defense. We know what Boston brings to the field and that is solid tackling and coverage skills. Carolina drafted Kenny Robinson knowing that he has more experience than most safeties in the draft since Robinson was able to play in the XFL last season. During both his time in the XFL, and prior at West Virginia, Robinson plays smart and hard-hitting football.
Strong Safety: Juston Burris, Jeremy Chinn
Burris will be the starter for 2020, but Jeremy Chinn is the safety of the future. The coaching staff loved this guy from seeing him at the Senior Bowl and through the NFL Combine which is why they traded up to draft him.
Do you think someone else will start at a certain position? Who do you think will start the season on the bench but finish the year as the starter? Please let us know in the comment section below and feel free to interact with us on social media.
You can follow us for future coverage by clicking "Follow" on the top righthand corner of the page. Also be sure to like us on Facebook & Twitter:
Facebook - @PanthersOnSI