|Is this young Panthers D for real?|
|Written by Steve Reed|
|Saturday, 28 August 2010 23:55|
CHARLOTTE – After three promising outings, folks around these parts are beginning to wonder if this young Carolina Panthers defense is for real.|
Through three games the Panthers have limited their opponents to 10 points per game, 3 yards per play and registered a league-high 18 sacks, including seven on Saturday night against the Tennessee Titans.
Preseason or not, those are impressive numbers.
It’s been the one highlight for the Panthers in a preseason marred by inconsistent special teams play and a flailing passing game.
“It’s not that I’m surprised because we see it in practice,” cornerback Richard Marshall said of the team’s defense. “We have guys that are fast, guys that run around and guys that play with good technique. So to me it’s not a surprise. For the public it might be a surprise because a lot of people are probably thinking, wow, we didn’t know they had this.”
Added linebacker Jon Beason: “I wouldn’t say I’m surprised, but I would say I’m happy with the way we’ve played.”
And why not?
On Saturday night the Panthers limited the Tennessee Titans to 50 yards on 24 plays in the first half and held Vince Young and Chris Johnson scoreless for three quarters en route to their first win of the preseason 15-7 at Bank of America Stadium.
Led by defensive end Charles Johnson, the Panthers had seven sacks and forced two turnovers on defense and another on special teams on a great hit by Tyrell Sutton.
The only letdown for Carolina’s defense came early in the fourth quarter when the second team allowed Kerry Collins to move the Titans 80 yards in five plays to take a 7-6 lead on a 35-yard touchdown pass to tight end Jared Cook. But kick returner Mike Goodson took the ensuing kickoff back 91 yards for a touchdown.
However, the first-team defense held the Titans to 70 total yards in three quarters and limited Chris Johnson, the NFL’s leading rusher last year, to 10 yards on eight carries.
“The thing we preached this summer was playing fast and doing your assignment and not trying to do someone else’s assignment,” Marshall said. “And that’s what we’ve been doing the last three weeks – everyone doing their own jobs to their best ability. Everything is working right now.”
Especially the pass rush.
Carolina’s 18 sacks have come from a variety of players, the latest being Johnson, probably the best of the team’s pass rushers. Johnson got his first two sacks in the second quarter. Everette Brown and Eric Moore also had sacks.
“Charles is playing over the top along with all of the defensive ends,” Beason said. “It’s hard to single out one guy. He’s doing his job. The good thing about it is he’s being greedy out there, so to speak, every play is a new opportunity to go out there and make a play.”
Added linebacker Dan Connor: “The D-line did a great job with keeping us free on some of those plays, we could just read and react and we didn’t have to worry about any blockers or anything. We could just hit our gap, they do one back zone so we got gap responsibility so it allows us to fire our guns and really try and make a play in the backfield.
Brown said the continuity on defense has been amazing.
“The most important thing is we’re playing fast,” Brown said. “Everybody is just playing their position fast and it’s allowing us to go out there and be successful.”
Even coach John Fox has been pleased.
“They’ve been pretty salty all three preseason games so far,” Fox said of his defense. “We are getting a look at a lot of different players. That one touchdown, we had a group in there that got a little discombobulated as far as matchups. Overall I thought it was a pretty strong outing again on first, second and third down.”