Originally written on isportsweb.com  |  Last updated 6/29/14

The Panthers were part of another close game this past weekend but failed to come away with the W for the third time this season. There were a variety of factors that led to the loss-injuries, turnovers, Devin Hester, etc. However, the one that stuck out among the bunch was the Panthers incapability to stop the run. Just last week, I posted an article on the Panthers inability to run the football. This week, they had problems stopping their opponent’s rushing attack. That’s certainly not a good combination for success in the NFL. Teams that are consistently good in this league usually pride themselves on doing two things effectively: running the football and stopping the run. Right now the Carolina Panthers are not doing a good job of either.

Maurice Jones-Drew, 24 rushes - 124 yards

The Panthers’ inability to stop the run has been exploited by their casualty-prone defense. The Panthers have lost a few key players on defense due to injury.  First and foremost, they lost their captain and all-pro middle linebacker, Jon Beason, in the first game of the season against the Arizona Cardinals. He tore his left Achilles tendon and was put on IR, so he will be out for the season. This was obviously a major blow to not only the defense but the team as a whole. This guy was is a perennial pro-bowl linebacker who  can make plays from sideline-to-sideline. He has accumulated over 120 tackles in each of his first four seasons. In his rookie year with the Panthers, he posted 140 tackles and was voted 2nd in the defensive rookie of the year voting behind only Patrick Willis, who is arguably the best linebacker in the NFL.

Next, the Panthers lost their outside linebacker, Thomas Davis, to the injury bug. He re-tore his ACL in his left knee, which he initially tore November 8, 2009, against the Saints last year. This was another one of the Panthers’ team captains and a guy who could put up 100 plus tackle seasons. Davis has really been instrumental in helping the defense stop the run and mentoring the young guys. On the field, the Panthers lost two tackling-machines.

Together, these guys, not only, had the ability to to find the football, but they had the pursuit to chase players down players on any given play. Off the field, they lost two audacious leaders who kept everyone in line. These guys certainly cannot be replaced, but the Carolina Panthers do have to find a way to move on without them and improve considerably on defense.

Matt Forte, 25 rushes - 205 yards, 1 TD

So, how can the Panthers defense improve from here? Simple, Carolina’s backups must step up and fill the void. Stopping the run all starts up front with the interior line. Terrell McClain, the rookie out of South Florida must step up and get some penetration. He and Sione Fua must move the line of scrimmage to the backfield. They can’t allow themselves to get pushed back into the linebackers. If they can get some penetration, lanes will open up for the linebackers to fill and get to the running back. With that said, the linebackers are responsible for finding the ball-carrier and making tackles. It is not enough for Jason Williams and James Anderson to just get to the football; they must find the ball-carrier and wrap up. Finally, the leader of that front-seven is Dan Connor. He has the ultimate responsibility of receiving the play and communicating it to the rest of the defense. Connor is the guy that the defense will look to before the play to make sure everyone is lined up properly, and during the play, he should make it a duty to be the first one in on every tackle. He should not allow any slack or lack of effort on long drives. He is the veteran here, and he will have to demand accountability from everyone on the defense.


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