Weatherly Ready to Fight For Expanded Role: "I Have Something to Prove"
As a part of retooling the defensive line, the Carolina Panthers signed former Minnesota defensive end Stephen Weatherly to a two-year, $12.5 million contract earlier this offseason.
During his first two years in the league, Weatherly saw action in 17 games, but was very limited and was only used on about 4.5% of the team's defensive snaps. However, over the last two seasons, he finally started to make an impact and was used on 44% of defensive snaps and accounted for 59 tackles, six sacks, 17 QB Hits, 11 tackles for loss, and two forced fumbles.
At age 26, Weatherly still has his best football ahead of him and I think what we have seen from him thus far is just him beginning to scratch the surface of the player he can ultimately become. Now with the Panthers, Weatherly is expected to lock up one of the starting spots at defensive end - a role that he is, for the most part, unfamiliar with. Tuesday afternoon, Weatherly talked about being in a larger role and what he needs to do to be successful in that starting role.
"I'm super excited to come out here and legitimately fight for a spot - a bigger, more expanded role. I do feel like I have something to prove. I feel like I'm ready to go out there and show what I got."
"It's learning how to play defenses and finding the commonalities between offenses. Every offense pretty much runs the same plays with window dressing. So, it's taking everything I've seen over the last four years and compartmentalizing it and giving that information to the rest of the guys on the d-line. You don't have to be the fastest, the biggest, or the strongest if you know where you need to be. For me, it's about trying to spread as much wisdom that I've collected over the last four years to all the young guys here and even some of the older guys too, if they ask."
Weatherly may not be a double-digit sack artist, but he is going to consistently produce and make life easier for the guys on the inside. For further analysis on Weatherly, Will Ragatz of Inside the Vikings on Sports Illustrated offered his thoughts.
"It’ll be an interesting transition for Weatherly, who has never had this kind of opportunity before. He’ll look to take what he learned from legendary Vikings D-line coach Andre Patterson – as well as former teammates Griffen and Hunter – and take advantage of expanded playing time. It’ll be a move back to the edge for Weatherly, who spent most of last year as an interior pass-rusher on obvious passing downs. So instead of rushing against guards, he’ll go back to taking on tackles on the outside.
"As I mentioned, I don’t think Weatherly has the upside to become an All-Pro or anything like that. But can he be a quality starter? Absolutely. With his length, experience, and smarts, I’d expect Weatherly to adjust well to his new role. He’s someone who can give the Panthers 6-8 sacks and provide solid run defense as well. He’ll also make a difference in the community and probably become a leader in the locker room."
My stance on Weatherly is not far off from what Ragatz echoed. With that said, I do believe in his potential and the possibility of being a Pro Bowler at some point in his career. I'm not expecting stardom from him, but I think you'll see a season or two where he is ultra-productive and is deserving of a Pro Bowl appearance.
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