Game On…with Rob Kriete – August 19

With the NFL season getting closer to getting their game on, I’ve been football-focused on the always gritty NFC South. The Panthers of Carolina are rebuilding a team, with Cam Newton moving on and poor team defense. In his second stint as general manager of Carolina, Marty Hurney hired the defense-minded Matt Ruhle to be the head coach. The tandem then used the 2020 NFL draft to rebuild a defense that ranked 31st in 2019.

Derrick Brown, a standout defensive tackle out of Auburn, was the 7th pick in the Panthers’ draft. Brown slots in as an immediate starter for Carolina and projects to be an impact player for a previously lackluster defensive front. His size and snap quickness will make him an integral part of the Carolina defense. To couple with Brown, Hurney chose Yetur Gross-Matos in the second round, an excellent pass-rusher from Penn State. The Panthers were all-in to rearrange their defense through the draft and took a safety, Jeremy Chinn, as well in the second round. Chinn played several different positions at Southern Illinois but is expected to start at the safety position in Week 1 for Carolina.

To further bolster the secondary, the Panthers added two cornerbacks, Troy Pride Jr., and Kenny Robinson, in the 4th and 5th rounds. In a division that includes Drew Brees, and now Tom Brady, having a stable of capable cornerbacks seems like a sound strategy.  Pride Jr. projects as a dynamic man-to-man cover corner, and Robinson is bringing his secondary skills from the short-lived XFL.

Completing their draft, the Panthers took defensive lineman, Bravvion Roy from Baylor, and yet another cornerback, Stantly Thomas-Oliver III, from Florida International.

Carolina is a rebuilding team and will roll out a new, young defense in 2020. The NFC South is traditionally a tough conference and is loaded with veteran quarterbacks that deftly eviscerate even the most veteran defenses.

I expect this season will offer many challenges to this young core of defensive players. However, with a season or two under their belts, and a few soon to be Hall-of-Fame quarterbacks possibly retiring, the future for Carolina is bright. Building a team from the defensive side of the ball is always the best way to create a winning culture. It will be interesting to see how his unit overcomes the challenges before them and gel into a team built on, for now, defense. I would expect that the slogan in Carolina for this season will be, “Defense On!” Perhaps. Be safe, everyone.