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Carolina Panthers Training Camp Preview: Linebackers and Defensive Line

Players are reporting to training camp as I write this so we gotta bust out these previews ASAP. We’re moving to the defensive side of the ball with this piece as we’ll take a look at how the linebackers and defensive line will shape up the front seven.

Linebackers

Training Camp Roster: Luke Kuechly, Shaq Thompson, Jermaine Carter, Andre Smith, Jared Norris, Brandon Chubb, Johnathan Celestin, Jordan Kunaszyk, Sione Teuhema, Antwione Williams

The leader of this group needs no introduction, Luke Kuechly is returning for his 8th season and is looking to continue his dominance. The one concern would probably be his injury issues but he had a healthy season last year so all looks good. The group lost veteran leader, Thomas Davis, so all eyes are on Shaq Thompson to step up and fully take on his role. Thompson is now in his 5th season so this may be make it or break it for him. In his 5th year I would believe he is what he is and a lot of people have very mixed reviews on Thompson. Hopefully he blossoms in a expanded role.

With the scheme switching to a 3-4, Kuechly and Thompson will be the likely duo manning the middle of the defense. The depth behind them isn’t pretty but Jermaine Carter and Andre Smith showed a touch of promise during the 2018 campaign.

Final Roster Prediction: Kuechly, Thompson, Carter, Smith, Norris

EDGE

Training Camp Roster: Bruce Irvin, Brian Burns, Christian Miller

I believe.. that’s it.. Maybe Mario Addison, but I think he needs to be strictly a DE. Anyways, all current EDGE’s are newcomers to the Panthers defense and all are looking to make an immediate impact. Irvin is the lone vet as he’s now in his 8th season. He floated around from team to team the past couple of seasons but he’s landed in Carolina as he likes the fit and thinks he can go back to playing in a role he’s comfortable in. Let’s hope that’s true.

Behind him are rookies Brian Burns (1st round pick) and Christian Miller (4th round pick). These were two guys that I personally was very high on entering the draft and I’m more than thrilled that we were able to to bring them both in. They get to the passer in different ways but were highly effective during the collegiate careers. I could see them being our EDGE tandem for years to come. With limited competition I would expect Burns and Irvin to be the day one starters on the edge.

D-Line

Training Camp Roster: Kawaan Short (DT), Gerald McCoy (DT), Dontari Poe (DT), Kyle Love (DT), Vernon Butler (DT), Woodrow Hamilton (DT), Eliajah Qualls (DT), Destiny Vaeao (DT), Mario Addison (DE), Efe Obada (DE), Bryan Cox Jr. (DE), Marquis Haynes (DE)

So if we’re switching to a 3-4, it almost seems like the defensive ends are being filtered out. There will probably be instances when they show 4-3 looks but I would still expect Burns and Irvin to drop down in those looks for the most part. But, they’re here so Rivera must have some plan.

The recent addition of Gerald McCoy makes our front 7 look pretty nasty. If he and Kawaan Short are the 3-4 “DE” and Dontari Poe lines up at nose tackle where he belongs, then that could be a scary sight for offensive lines.

My main worry is that none of the players, besides Poe, are used to playing in a 3-4 as the primary scheme, so it’ll be interesting to see how they transition to this. They’ve been talking all offseason about how as a defensive linemen you’re supposed to know how to play each tech. So, we’ll see how true that is soon.

Final Roster Prediction: McCoy, Short, Poe, Butler, Love, Addison, Obada, Cox Jr.

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