The Carolina Panthers suddenly boast a downright formidable starting defensive line in Greg Hardy, Charles Johnson, Star Lotulelei and Kawann Short and Hardy is slimming down this offseason to make the unit even more dangerous. Defensive ends Johnson and Hardy ranked second and eighth in the NFL respectively in 4-3 end pass-rush grading, according to Pro Football Focus, and the 6-4 Hardy’s commitment to go from 297 pounds to 283 pounds this offseason could help him bridge the gap between him and his teammate.
Hardy spoke with the Charlotte Observer recently about how filthy this line will be with his new physique along with a serious investment at the defensive tackle position, where Lotulelei and Short went in rounds one and two.
“They believe in us. That’s one of those situations where the front office shows by what they do that they’re backing us,’” Hardy told the Observer. “We needed middle help. … They were like, ‘Listen, here’s the parts, man. Go win a championship. We’re going to keep grinding. We’re going to keep working. It’s not about money, extensions and deals, and who we drafted, and how much money everybody got. It’s about how good we’re going to get.
“If you thought last year was ridiculous, we’re going to take it to a whole other level because we’re starting from a higher point than we did last year. That’s what it’s all about for me. We’re already making more money than normal people, right?”
If Cam Newton keeps up his torrid streak from down the stretch last season, then the Panthers could finally deliver on their trendy status as dark-horse division champs.