Last season, Chris Gamble became the Carolina Panthers‘ all-time interception leader in 2011 with an impressive bounce-back season; he thinks the defense will recover as a unit in 2012 after ranking in the bottom 10th of the NFL in passing yards and touchdowns allowed.
“We’re anxious to get out there and prove a lot of people wrong,” Gamble said. “We have a young group of guys, but we’re going to go out there and make plays and cause turnovers.”
Gamble has the veteran experience to know what he is talking about, and the defense’s production will likely determine whether the Panthers are a playoff dark horse or not.
“I love this defense, and now that I’ve got a year under my belt, I feel more comfortable and am ready to make more plays,” Gamble said. “We’ve got some good cornerbacks, and all of them are looking good.”
Gamble knows he will have to continue to compete, but this year’s cornerback crew is much deeper than last year.
“When you look at the group of young guys, one of them has got to step up and become that No. 2 guy,” Panthers head coach Ron Rivera said. “Whether it’s Captain staying at the No. 2 and being the nickel as well, or if it’s another guy stepping up and becoming the No. 2, it’s a good competition. That’s probably the most important thing, that we have competition at as many positions as possible.”
The defense at least feels that they will be able to force more turnovers this year, and Ron Rivera would be thrilled if they did.
“This defense is set up for us to make plays,” Gamble said. “I feel like I did that last year, and this year I want to come up with even more plays. I just need to study more film, know the opponents’ weaknesses and make plays on the ball, and I want to be more consistent with what I’m doing.”
If the defense becomes as consistent as last year’s offense, then the Carolina Panthers might make some noise in the NFC South this year.