Panthers must tackle big defensive need inside

Eric Edholm
January 17, 2013
Panthers promote Shula to offensive coordinator

The last time the Panthers used a first- or second-round pick on a defensive tackle was in 2001 on Kris Jenkins. It’s no wonder that the team has been weak at the position since Jenkins left the team after the 2007 season.

Since then, the team has used three third-round picks — Corvey Irvin (2009), Terrell McClain (’11) and Sione Fua (’11) — on defensive tackles. Irvin and McClain have moved on to other teams, and Fua is a backup in Carolina who has yet to distinguish himself.

It’s time the team invested more in the position. Ron Edwards, 33, who started the first 11 games, is likely to be released because of his high salary-cap figure. It was his second straight season-ending injury. Dwan Edwards had a career-high six sacks and appeared revived on his third NFL team at age 31, but youth is needed.

Fua might never be more than a backup. Frank Kearse filled in as a starter but likely is best as a role player. Other backups, such as Nate Chandler and Andre Neblett, are not considered up-and-comers.

With the team’s prowess at defensive end, it’s important to help free them up with better DT play. Don’t be surprised if new GM Dave Gettleman, who came from the Giants, makes the position more of a premium. The Giants have stockpiled defensive linemen with great success the past decade, knowing the importance of a good rush and the ability to stop the run game.