2014 DRAFT GUIDE
Panthers striving to be NFL's No. 1 defense

By STEVE REED - AP Sports Writer
    2014-07-31 17:10

SPARTANBURG, S.C. (AP) - The Carolina Panthers defense is looking to take one more step in 2014.

Luke Kuechly said even though the Panthers were No. 2 in the NFL in defense last season he sees plenty of room for improvement.

Kuechly, the team's middle linebacker and last year's AP Defensive Player of the Year, points to early season losses to Seattle and Buffalo in which Carolina gave up late touchdowns.

''We need to do a better job of finishing games,'' Kuechly said.

Only the Super Bowl champion Seattle Seahawks allowed fewer yards and fewer points last season than the Panthers.

With everyone returning everyone from a disruptive front seven and with some added NFL experience in the secondary, some Panthers feel like they can unseat the Seahawks as the league's elite defensive team.

''I feel like we can be the league's number one defense,'' said second-year defensive tackle Kawann Short.

Carolina allowed 301.3 yards and 15.1 points per game last season; the Seahawks allowed 276.3 yards and 14.4 points.

The Panthers allowed the fewest touchdowns (21), had the most sacks (50) and were third in red zone defense last season under defensive coordinator Sean McDermott.

The Panthers lost only two defensive starters from 2013 - cornerback Captain Munnerlyn and safety Mike Mitchell - but replaced them with veterans Antoine Cason and Roman Harper. They also added veteran safety Thomas DeCoud.

With so many players familiar with the defense and a plethora of NFL experience, Panthers coach Ron Rivera said the team has already been able to install 75 percent of its defense just one week into training camp.

''That's a huge plus for us,'' Rivera said. ''As a coordinator you get to the point where the more you get in, the quicker you can refine things and start working on your opponents. ... It can shore things up where you can be a top three defense.''

Rivera knows what it's like to have a No. 1 defense.

He was the defensive coordinator in San Diego in 2010 when the Chargers finished first in the league.

Cason was a member of that squad and said this team ''is a little different'' than the Chargers team in terms of personnel, but has big-time potential.

''Everyone is together, everyone picks each other up,'' Cason said. ''Everyone hustles and does exactly what they need to do within the defense to make it work.''

The Panthers return veteran defensive end Charles Johnson and Greg Hardy, who combined for 26 sacks last year, defensive tackles Dwan Edwards and Colin Cole, and linebackers Thomas Davis, Chase Blackburn and Kuechly from last year's team, giving Rivera a host of veteran leaders on the field.

''Just the fact that most of the defense is a solid group in terms of veterans, that helps,'' Rivera said.

And the youth isn't bad either.

The Panthers defense flourished last season despite playing six rookies - sometimes all at the same time.

Rivera said with he expects defensive tackles Star Lotulelei and Short, defensive end Wes Horton, linebacker A.J. Klein and cornerback Melvin White and safety Robert Lester to take another big step in 2014 with one year behind them.

Together that group of rookies played in 85 combined games, had 169 tackles, 8.5 sacks and two fumble recoveries as rookies.

It all lends itself to a potentially promising season under, the team's fourth-year defensive coordinator who runs a 4-3 base defensive scheme with some occasional 3-4 looks.

But Kuechly cautions the Panthers can't simply assume they'll be better.

Carolina avenged its early losses to Buffalo and Seattle last year by winning 11 of its final 12 games to finish 12-4 and win the NFC South championship. But the Panthers couldn't get past San Francisco, falling 23-10 at home in the divisional playoffs.

Kuechly said if the Panthers are to build on 2013 and take the next step toward separating themselves from other teams they'll need to be more consistent.

''Hey, there were times we played really well last year and times we didn't play well,'' said Kuechly, who had 176 tackles and four interceptions last season. ''We've got to get on the same page starting from day one.''

---

AP NFL website: www.pro32.ap.org and www.twitter.com/AP-NFL

Fantasy Football Player Notes RSS FeedPLAYER NOTES

Luke WillsonOct 24 10:44p

Seattle Seahawks TE Luke Willson (groin) will play in the team's Week 8 game, according to head coach Pete Carroll.

Crockett GillmoreOct 24 10:32p

Baltimore Ravens rookie TE Crockett Gillmore will receive the start at tight end in Week 8 against the Cincinnati Bengals, and the Ravens appear to have plenty of confidence [ More ]

Golden TateOct 24 10:12p

Detroit Lions WR Golden Tate will be facing the league's 29th ranked pass defense in Week 8 against the Atlanta Falcons.

Steve JohnsonOct 24 10:08p

San Francisco 49ers WR Stevie Johnson has played only 20 percent of the snaps in the last month, but he's been the team's most effective receiver in that time. [ More ]

Reggie BushOct 24 10:02p

Detroit Lions RB Reggie Bush (ankle) is expected to be inactive for the Week 9 game against the Atlanta Falcons in London, according to a source Friday, Oct. 24.

Calvin JohnsonOct 24 10:02p

Detroit Lions WR Calvin Johnson (ankle) is unlikely to play in Week 8 against the Atlanta Falcons in London, according to a source. The team has a bye in [ More ]

Ryan MathewsOct 24 09:52p

San Diego Chargers RB Ryan Mathews (knee) missed his sixth consecutive game in Week 8 Thursday, Oct. 23, against the Denver Broncos, but he could return to practice as [ More ]

Donald BrownOct 24 09:52p

San Diego Chargers RB Donald Brown (concussion) missed his third straight game in Week 8 Thursday, Oct. 23, against the Denver Broncos, but he might be able to return to practice Monday, Oct. 27.

Alan BallOct 24 07:02p

The Jacksonville Jaguars are extremely thin at cornerback heading into the team's Week 8 game, with CBs Alan Ball (biceps) out, and Dwayne Gratz (hip flexor) questionable. There is [ More ]

Kevin WilliamsOct 24 06:32p

Seattle Seahawks FB Derrick Coleman (foot), DT Jordan Hill (ankle), CB Byron Maxwell (calf), TE Zach Miller (ankle), C Max Unger (foot), LB Bobby Wagner (toe) and WR Bryan [ More ]

Khalif BarnesOct 24 06:32p

Oakland Raiders OT Khalif Barnes (quadriceps) is expected to start at right tackle in Week 8, but head coach Tony Sparano would not say if Barnes or OT Menelik [ More ]

LaMarr WoodleyOct 24 06:22p

Oakland Raiders DE LaMarr Woodley (biceps) and FS Usama Young (knee) are expected to be placed on the Reserve/Injured list.

Dion SimsOct 24 06:02p

Miami Dolphins SS Jimmy Wilson (hamstring) is listed as doubtful for Week 8. LB Koa Misi (ankle) is listed as questionable, while OT Branden Albert (elbow), LS John Denney [ More ]

Billy WinnOct 24 05:52p

Cleveland Browns WR Rodney Smith (hamstring) and DT Phil Taylor (knee) have been ruled out for Week 8. DE Billy Winn (quadriceps) and SS Jim Leonhard (ankle) are listed [ More ]

Justin TuckOct 24 05:42p

Oakland Raiders TE David Ausberry (foot), WR Vincent Brown (hamstring), CB Keith McGill (groin), DE LaMarr Woodley (biceps) and FS Usama Young (knee) did not participate in practice Friday, [ More ]

Derrick ColemanOct 24 05:32p

Updating a previous report, Seattle Seahawks RB Derrick Coleman (foot) had surgery to repair a foot injury this week. He is expected to miss at least six weeks.

Brandon BrownerOct 24 05:32p

New England Patriots DE Chandler Jones (hip) did not participate in practice Friday, Oct. 24, and has been ruled out for Week 8. OG Dan Connolly (concussion), DE Dominique [ More ]

Johnathan JosephOct 24 05:32p

Houston Texans CB Darryl Morris (ankle) and LB Jeff Tarpinian (knee) have been ruled out for Week 8 against the Tennessee Titans. LBs Jadeveon Clowney (knee), Brian Cushing (knee), [ More ]

Frostee RuckerOct 24 05:22p

Arizona Cardinals TE Troy Niklas (ankle) has been ruled out for Week 8 against the Philadelphia Eagles. DE Calais Campbell (knee) is questionable, while S Rashad Johnson (knee) and [ More ]

Morgan BurnettOct 24 05:12p

Green Bay Packers DE Datone Jones (ankle) has been ruled out for Week 8 against the New Orleans Saints. S Morgan Burnett (calf) is questionable, while CB Sam Shields [ More ]

James StarksOct 24 05:12p

Green Bay Packers RB James Starks (ankle) was limited in practice for the second straight day Friday, Oct. 24, but is probable for Week 8 against the New Orleans [ More ]

Lance BriggsOct 24 05:02p

Chicago Bears LB Jonathan Bostic (back) and LB Lance Briggs (ribs) were limited in practice Friday, Oct. 24, and are doubtful for Week 8. S Danny McCray (knee) did [ More ]

Ryan ClarkOct 24 05:02p

Washington Redskins CB Tracy Porter (hamstring) and FS Ryan Clark (ankle, shoulder) were limited during practice Friday, Oct. 24. DE Chris Baker (thigh), OT Tyler Polumbus (knee), LB Perry [ More ]

Jack CrawfordOct 24 04:52p

Dallas Cowboys OT Doug Free (foot) and DE Jack Crawford (calf) did not participate in practice Friday, Oct. 24. Anthony Spencer (knee) was limited during practice, while LB Bruce [ More ]

Ronnie HillmanOct 24 04:52p

Denver Broncos RB Ronnie Hillman continues to run with confidence in the absence of RB Montee Ball (groin), and Ball will likely find it hard to win his starting [ More ]

Jonathan GoodwinOct 24 04:32p

New Orleans Saints C Jonathan Goodwin (ankle, knee) and LB Kyle Knox (ankle) did not participate in practice Friday, Oct. 24, and have been ruled out. DT Brodrick Bunkley [ More ]

Nick MangoldOct 24 04:32p

New York Jets LB Trevor Reilly (knee) and WR Greg Salas (wrist, ankle) both were limited in practice Friday, Oct. 24, and are questionable for Week 8. OT Oday [ More ]

Cyrus GrayOct 24 04:32p

Kansas City Chiefs CB Christopher Owens (knee) has been ruled out for Week 8 against the St. Louis Rams. WR Junior Hemingway (hamstring) and S Eric Berry (ankle) are [ More ]

Khiry RobinsonOct 24 04:22p

New Orleans Saints RB Khiry Robinson (forearm) did not participate in practice Friday, Oct. 24, and has been ruled out for Week 8.

Jo-Lonn DunbarOct 24 04:22p

St. Louis Rams C Tim Barnes (shoulder) and CB Brandon McGee (foot) are both out for Week 8 against the Kansas City Chiefs. CBs Janoris Jenkins (knee) and Trumaine [ More ]

R. Griffin IIIOct 24 04:12p

Washington Redskins QB Robert Griffin III (ankle) said he won't rush back to play until his ankle is fully healed. 'It's our job to help this team win, and [ More ]

Pierre ThomasOct 24 04:12p

New Orleans Saints RB Pierre Thomas (rib, shoulder) did not participate in practice Friday, Oct. 24, and has been ruled out for Week 8.

RSS Feeds

NFL News:
 
Player Notes:
 
Forum Posts:
 

© 2014 RealTime Fantasy Sports, Inc.
Email Us  ·  Call Us 636.447.1170  ·  Lost Password
Advertising represented by USA Today Sports Media Group