Panthers pass rush bright spot in losing season

By STEVE REED - AP Sports Writer
    2012-11-14 17:52

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) - The Carolina Panthers' pass rush has proven to a bright spot in an otherwise disappointing season.

Defensive ends Charles Johnson and Greg Hardy have combined for 15 sacks in the past six games making them the NFL's second-most productive sack tandem in the league behind only Denver's Von Miller and Elvis Dumervil.

Not bad for a pair that coach Ron Rivera describes as having ``completely different personalities.''

Rivera said he wouldn't trade the tandem for any in the NFL, adding ``as our defensive line has grown, our defense has gotten better.''

Carolina's 16th-ranked defense has held opposing offenses to 20 points or less in each of their last five games. Unfortunately for the Panthers, four of those games have resulted in defeats as Cam Newton and the offense continues to struggle.

Johnson and Hardy have formed a formidable duo, even if they both admit they're nothing alike.

Johnson is more of the calm veteran who rarely loses his cool.

Hardy is the emotional one, the guy who paints his entire face on game day and transforms himself into an alter-ego he calls ``Kraken.''

``Greg is more excitable, loud and, well, I guess you'd say kind of a wild boy,'' Johnson said. ``I'm just cool and calm and I like to work. I like to earn everything I get.''

Hardy has always been a bit of a wild card.

He came to training camp in 2011 with his body beat up after a motorcycle accident in Tennessee left him with severe skin abrasions. Hardy traded that motorcycle in for a Bentley, but drew the ire of coaches this past offseason when he Tweeted a picture of his speedometer reading 100 miles per hour.

Even Rivera admits Hardy is ``a little off the wall'' but that ``he's all business when it comes to the game. He's fiery and emotional.''

Hardy laughs when he hears others' perception of him.

``What people don't understand is it's a persona, an attitude,'' Hardy said. ``I have to get hyped for a game. If you're not ready for the game, it will hit you in the face and you'll wind up on IR (injured reserve).''

Johnson, now in his sixth NFL season, has developed into a true pro, Rivera said.

When linebacker Jon Beason went down with an injury Rivera asked Johnson to step out of character a bit and put the ``C'' on his jersey for team captain. That's a role even Johnson wasn't quite comfortable with at first, admitting that he doesn't view himself as a vocal leader.

But Rivera said leading by example is just fine, too.

``I think he has matured into the type of player we envisioned he could be,'' Rivera said of Johnson, the highest-paid player in team history after inking a six-year, $76 million contract in 2011.

Johnson has 8.5 sacks this season and is on pace to shatter his career-high of 11.5. Hardy already has established a new career-best (6.5 sacks) with seven games remaining.

Together they've combined to force six fumbles and recovered two.

They'll be tested on Sunday when the Panthers host red hot Tampa Bay, which has won four of its last five games.

Quarterback Josh Freeman has been on fire during that span with 13 touchdown passes and one interception.

Bucs coach Greg Schiano said his team will have its hands full.

``The thing I love is the way they play, some of them are really finesse moves and stuff, you sit there and go `Wow,''' Schiano said. ``A lot of those sacks are just hard effort and playing sacks that they just outwork the guy that's blocking them and get to the quarterback. We know we're really, really going to have to strain our guts out to protect Josh and it's a huge challenge for us.''

Carolina's pass rushing duo started the season off slow, failing to register a sack in the first three games of the season.

Rivera believes the turnaround is due in part to veteran defensive tackles Ron Edwards and Dwan Edwards getting settled in on defense. Ron Edwards, the big body gap-filler up front, missed all of first season in Carolina with a torn triceps, while Dwan Edwards has been a huge free agent acquisition this year contributing five sacks.

``It helps when you can get a push from inside at the three-technique spot,'' Rivera said.

The Panthers lost 36-14 to the Broncos this past Sunday, but only 20 came at the hands of Peyton Manning and Denver's offense.

The other 16 came from Denver's defense and special teams.

Panthers defensive coordinator Sean McDermott believes holding the last five offenses to 20 points or less is major progress from 2011.

``I'm not taking anything away from the wins and losses (because) that's the most important thing of our business,'' McDermott said. ``But I've got a goal as a defensive coordinator and a vision, and we're moving forward toward that vision. Anybody who was at the field saw that those guys played tough, aggressive football through and through until the end of the game.''


Online: http://pro32.ap.org/poll and http://twitter.com/AP-NFL

Fantasy Football Player Notes RSS FeedPLAYER NOTES

Arian FosterOct 6 07:52p

Houston Texans RB Arian Foster (groin) was limited in practice Tuesday, Oct. 6.

Latavius MurrayOct 6 03:32p

Oakland Raiders RB Latavius Murray still has the confidence of head coach Jack Del Rio, despite a rough outing in Week 4 against the Chicago Bears. Murray accounted for [ More ]

Andrew LuckOct 6 03:22p

Indianapolis Colts QB Andrew Luck (shoulder) does not have a partial shoulder subluxation, as had been reported previously, according to a source. Head coach Chuck Pagano said he heard [ More ]

Sammy WatkinsOct 6 02:13p

Buffalo Bills general manager Doug Whaley said WR Sammy Watkins (calf) will play in Week 5 against the Tennessee Titans 'fingers crossed.'

Dan HerronOct 6 02:13p

Free-agent RB Dan Herron (Colts) was signed by the Buffalo Bills Tuesday, Oct. 6. TE MarQueis Gray (forearm) was placed on the Reserve/Injured list.

Daniel FellsOct 6 01:52p

New York Giants TE Daniel Fells (ankle) had surgery this week on his ankle and was diagnosed with MRSA, which is a very serious condition.

Roddy WhiteOct 6 01:42p

Atlanta Falcons WR Roddy White could be open to a trade due to a declining role with the Falcons.

Devin HesterOct 6 01:32p

Atlanta Falcons WR Devin Hester (toe) was placed on the short-term Reserve/Injured list Tuesday, Oct. 6.

Fred JacksonOct 6 01:22p

Seattle Seahawks RB Fred Jackson (ankle) is dealing with a high ankle sprain, according to head coach Pete Carroll.

Eric EbronOct 6 12:32p

Updating an earlier report, Detroit Lions TE Eric Ebron (knee) had an MRI reveal no structural damage in his left knee. His status is to be determined for Week 5.

Markus WheatonOct 6 12:22p

Pittsburgh Steelers WR Markus Wheaton (ankle) looks dramatically improved from his ankle injury and has a good chance to play in Week 5 against the San Diego Chargers.

Eric EbronOct 6 11:52a

Detroit Lions TE Eric Ebron (knee) had X-rays on his left knee, which were negative. He'll have an MRI as well.

Connor BarthOct 6 10:43a

Free-agent PK Connor Barth (Buccaneers) has re-signed with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers Tuesday, Oct. 6, as he beat out other kickers to replace PK Kyle Brindza. Brindza was released.

Caleb SturgisOct 6 10:22a

Philadelphia Eagles PK Caleb Sturgis won't be replaced after missing a field goal and an extra point in Week 4, according to head coach Chip Kelly. 'We're going to [ More ]

Steve SmithOct 6 09:52a

Baltimore Ravens WR Steve Smith (back) is day to day and hasn't been ruled out for Week 5, according to WR Kamar Aiken.

Karlos WilliamsOct 6 09:02a

Buffalo Bills RB Karlos Williams (concussion) sustained a concussion in Week 4, and his status is uncertain against the Tennessee Titans in Week 5.

Zach HockerOct 6 08:33a

New Orleans Saints PK Zach Hocker could be in danger of losing his job as the Saints are trying out kickers Tuesday, Oct. 6.

Russell WilsonOct 6 01:22a

Seattle Seahawks QB Russell Wilson completed 20 of his 26 pass attempts for 287 yards, one touchdown and no interceptions in the Week 4 game against the Detroit Lions [ More ]

Thomas RawlsOct 6 01:22a

Seattle Seahawks RB Thomas Rawls saw a lion's share of the carries against the Detroit Lions in Week 4 Monday, Oct. 5, running for 48 yards on 17 carries [ More ]

Matthew StaffordOct 6 12:42a

Detroit Lions QB Matthew Stafford completed 24 of his 35 pass attempts for 203 yards, no touchdowns and no interceptions in the Week 4 game Monday, Oct. 5, against the Seattle Seahawks.

Ameer AbdullahOct 6 12:42a

Detroit Lions RB Ameer Abdullah carried 13 times for just 33 yards in the Week 4 game against the Seattle Seahawks Monday, Oct. 5, and he added two receptions [ More ]

Calvin JohnsonOct 6 12:42a

Detroit Lions WR Calvin Johnson had seven receptions for 56 yards in the Week 4 game against the Seattle Seahawks, but he was also credited with a lost fumble [ More ]

Andrew LuckOct 5 09:22p

Updating a previous report, Indianapolis Colts QB Andrew Luck (shoulder) could be on target to play in the Week 5 game against the Houston Texans Thursday, Oct. 8, as [ More ]

Andrew LuckOct 5 07:52p

Indianapolis Colts QB Andrew Luck (shoulder) is 'trending in the right direction' to return against the Houston Texans in Week 5 Thursday, Oct. 8, after taking part in the [ More ]

Marshawn LynchOct 5 07:32p

Seattle Seahawks RB Marshawn Lynch (hamstring) was able to run during pregame warmups Monday, Oct. 5, and appears to have a good chance to play in the Week 5 game against the Cincinnati Bengals.

Alec OgletreeOct 5 07:02p

Updating a previous report, St. Louis Rams LB Alec Ogletree (ankle) suffered a fracture ankle during the team's Week 4 game. He is scheduled to undergo surgery and may [ More ]

Sean LeeOct 5 06:42p

Dallas Cowboys LB Sean Lee (concussion) is feeling better but will have to pass all of his concussion tests before he is cleared to play again, according to head coach Jason Garrett.

Lance DunbarOct 5 06:42p

Dallas Cowboys RB Lance Dunbar (knee) will miss the rest of the 2015 season because of a torn anterior cruciate ligament he suffered in Week 4. He scheduled [ More ]

Ronnie BrownOct 5 05:32p

Free-agent RB Ronnie Brown (Chargers) re-signed with the San Diego Chargers Monday, Oct. 5, according to a source. Terms of the contract were not disclosed.

Andrew LuckOct 5 05:12p

Indianapolis Colts QB Andrew Luck (shoulder) is expected to play in the Week 5 game against the Houston Texans Thursday, Oct. 8. Luck has a slightly separated throwing shoulder [ More ]

Sammy WatkinsOct 5 04:42p

Buffalo Bills WR Sammy Watkins' (calf) status for the Week 5 game against the Tennessee Titans is uncertain at this point, according to head coach Rex Ryan. 'He looked [ More ]

Jordan ReedOct 5 04:42p

Washington Redskins TE Jordan Reed's (concussion, knee, ankle) head injury is a real concern, according to head coach Jay Gruden. Reed has a long history of head injuries dating [ More ]

RSS Feeds

NFL News:
Player Notes:
Forum Posts:

© 2015 RealTime Fantasy Sports, Inc.
Email Us  ·  Call Us 636.447.1170  ·  Lost Password
Advertising represented by USA Today Sports Media Group