Carolina Panthers third-year defensive end Greg Hardy has never been the most popular player on the roster among fans, but that is changing.
Hardy was drafted by the Panthers in the sixth round of the 2010 NFL Draft. He was a highly touted defensive lineman during his college playing days at the University of Mississippi, but multiple injuries derailed his chances at becoming a first round draft selection.
Hardy is a difficult player to figure out, due in large part of the poor decisions he has made off the field.
In July of 2011, Hardy wrecked his motorcycle in his home state of Tennessee, forcing him to miss the majority of Carolina’s training camp and preseason. He made matters worse this offseason, nearly a year after his first motorcycle accident; Hardy sent out a photo via Instagram of his speedometer topping 100 MPH while apparently driving his Bentley around Charlotte.
The photo this past offseason further indicating that Hardy has a lot of maturing to do before he can become a Pro-Bowl caliber defensive end.
However, despite the poor off-field decisions made by Hardy over the past year, Carolina’s defensive coaching staff still saw potential greatness in Hardy on the field because of his gifted athletic ability.
Hardy has responded to the positive vibes he’s been receiving all season long from his coaches and he is beginning to produce results on game day.
The 6’4”, 290 lb defensive end has registered 6.5 sacks this season with 4.5 of those sacks coming in Carolina’s previous two games.
These are numbers that give Panthers fans something to be optimistic about. It appears that defensive coordinator Sean McDermott has found something that clicks with Hardy mentally.
A good sign considering the Panthers once hoped Hardy could fill at least a portion of the void left behind by former defensive end Julius Peppers after he bolted to the Chicago Bears in 2010.
Hardy still has a long way to go. If he can keep his brain focused on football and not on wreck-less driving, then watch-out because the sky is the limit for him given the skill set he has shown so far this season.
Robert Kester, Carolina Panthers Columnist. Contact @robertkester1