The Carolina Panthers have seen a lot of positives this season. Despite the slow start, they have a 4-3 record. The Panthers’ defense has been the most consistent throughout the season so far. The Panthers are currently ranked third in the NFL in total defense. They are lead by team captains Luke Kuechly and Thomas Davis.
Despite key injuries to the secondary, the Panthers have really held their own and played outstanding football. They have kept five of their seven opponents to 15 points or under.
The defensive line has been fantastic. Several key players have had outstanding games for the Panthers, causing problems for the opponents. Rookie Star Lotulelei has had a great season so far. He only has one sack and 20 tackles, but he has been a true force on the line. He has pressured the quarterback or stuffed the run game at the line. He already has been considered a candidate for the Defensive Rookie of the Year award.
The true leaders of the defensive line are Greg Hardy and Charles Johnson; rightfully so, considering they are getting the big bucks from the organization. Hardy and Johnson have really struck fear into many opponents. Johnson is a monster with unbelievable strength. Hardy is not only strong, but has incredible speed to beat the offensive linemen around the edge. Both players have had a great start to the season pressuring quarterbacks and beating down the run game.
Last season, Johnson recorded 12.5 sacks and Hardy had 11. The two of them also combined for a total of 102 tackles and nine forced fumbles. Last season was a good one for them despite their 7-9 team record.
Through eight weeks, Johnson has recorded 16 tackles, six sacks, one forced fumble and a fumble recovery. On the other side of the line, Hardy has recorded 29 tackles, five sacks, two forced fumbles and a fumble recovery also. Both of these players are on pace to match last year’s performance or better it. They have really taken control of the defensive line and made names for themselves.
With the help of Lotulelei and the linebackers, the Panthers’ front seven are ranked fourth in the run defense, only allowing an average of 79 yards a game. The Panthers are ranked sixth in the league in sacks and interceptions.
Hardy and Johnson are incredible defensive players. They play opposite of each other on the line and make it hard for offenses to block them. Especially with the force of Lotulelei in the middle, offensive lines will struggle to keep these guys away from the quarterback. Hardy and Johnson are easily one of the best defensive end tandems in the league.