The Carolina Panthers have a very young defense. This past Sunday against the Arizona Cardinals, the Panthers started three rookies on defense. Along with them was at least three other players with three years of experience or less. However, despite their age, these young players have shown great maturity and have played very well since the start of the season.
Panthers rookie safety Robert Lester is filling in for injured veteran Quintin Mikell. He made his debut start in Week 3 against the New York Giants where he recorded a total of five tackles and his first interception in the NFL. This is a big feat considering the Giants were third in the league for passing yards and he had to help cover two of the best wide receivers in the NFL.
This past Sunday, he was faced with another difficult task of helping to cover another top receiver, Larry Fitzgerald. Fitzgerald is known for his reliable hands and his acrobatic abilities to make a jumping, leaping, diving catch anywhere on the field. Lester was up to the challenge as he intercepted a high and deep thrown ball to Fitzgerald.
Both players went up for the ball in the end zone and Lester came down with the difficult interception. He also recorded one pass deflection and three total tackles.
Kawaan Short, a rookie defensive tackle for the Panthers, also got his first start in the NFL. He had a decent game, recording five tackles and one sack. He also had tackles on the running back for negative yards and was around the quarterback putting pressure on him quite often.
His pressure, along with rookie teammate Star Lotulelei, helped force Cardinals quarterback Carson Palmer into difficult situations that led to three interceptions.
Second-year veteran and captain of the defense Luke Kuechly led the team with a total of nine tackles and also recorded his second interception of the season. Right behind him was third year veteran Josh Thomas with seven tackles. Although the defense played well with two total sacks and three interceptions, the Panthers still allowed 22 points.
The blame can’t be on them considering the offense struggled to punch the ball into the end zone and also had gave away three interceptions also. The Cardinals got their interceptions with great field position, making it very difficult for the Panthers to keep them from scoring.
At the end of the day, the Panthers have some very good, young players with amazing potential. With little experience, they still have shown their opponents that they can dominate the field and play against some of the best offenses in the league. The Panthers have a small chance of making a run for the playoffs with a record of 1-3.
However, in a few years, with a little more experience and development with these players, the Panthers will surely have a dominant team that will contend for a playoff spot.