Fast forward to Carolina’s current down linemen and some fans might be hard-pressed to name all four.
Because the Panthers have gotten little production from the defensive line, leaving the linebackers to deal with both stopping the run and applying pressure on the quarterback.
In a 4-3 defensive set, that won’t work. The defensive line must be a factor and make plays every Sunday in a 4-3 defense. Three linebackers can’t be relied on to do everything, no matter how talented they might be.
This past Sunday against the Atlanta Falcons, Carolina’s front four finally decided to show up and produce in what was arguably their best showing in recent memory.
The number that jumps right off the page is the number seven. The Panthers accumulated a franchise record tying seven sacks in week four, dropping Atlanta’s Matt Ryan for a total of 64 lost yards.
The most shocking aspect: Carolina’s defensive line was responsible for all seven sacks. Panthers defensive end Charles Johnson led the group with a single-game franchise record 3.5 sacks.
Despite the remarkable play from the Panthers’ defensive line, the team would still fall short to the Falcons, 30-28. That’s a difficult loss to swallow considering the Panthers fought tooth and nail on every down last Sunday.
“It’s hard when you put so much work in like we did but don’t finish,” Jonson said. “It was very disappointing. We did some good things out there.”
They did some great things on both sides of the football, but Carolina’s production up front was what they will need from here on out in 2012 if they want to start winning.
Panthers head coach Ron Rivera was of course disappointed with falling to 1-3 on the season, but still praised his linemen for the work they accomplished in Atlanta.
“Those guys played hard and did the things we needed them to do,” Rivera said. “You better believe we are going to build on that.”
Carolina can take plenty of positives away from Sunday’s heart-breaker. Being down 1-3 in the NFL is almost a death sentence. At least the Panthers can take solace in the fact that they do have something they can build on.
Robert Kester, Carolina Panthers Columnist. Contact @robertkester1.