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

Jimmy StatenNov 26 09:43p

The Seattle Seahawks signed free-agent DT Jimmy Staten (Seahawks) to their practice squad Wednesday, Nov. 26. The team also released OT Andrew McDonald from their practice squad.

Marcus ThigpenNov 26 09:03p

The Buffalo Bills claimed WR Marcus Thigpen off waivers from the Tampa Bay Buccaneers Wednesday, Nov. 26. The team also waived DE Bryan Johnson.

Richard GordonNov 26 09:03p

The Tennessee Titans waived TE Richard Gordon Wednesday, Nov. 26.

Larry FitzgeraldNov 26 08:33p

Arizona Cardinals WR Larry Fitzgerald (knee) did not participate in practice Wednesday, Nov. 26.

Dwayne AllenNov 26 07:33p

Indianapolis Colts TE Dwayne Allen (ankle) did not participate in practice Wednesday, Nov. 26.

C. PattersonNov 26 06:23p

Minnesota Vikings WR Cordarrelle Patterson (knee) did not practice Wednesday, Nov. 26.

Jerick McKinnonNov 26 06:13p

Minnesota Vikings RB Jerick McKinnon (back) did not practice Wednesday, Nov. 26.

Brandon LaFellNov 26 06:03p

New England Patriots WR Brandon LaFell (shoulder) was limited during practice Wednesday, Nov. 26.

Jace AmaroNov 26 05:13p

New York Jets TE Jace Amaro (head) is not expected to play in Week 13, because he is going through the concussion protocol.

Reggie BushNov 26 04:53p

Detroit Lions RB Reggie Bush (ankle, back) was limited in practice for the third straight day Wednesday, Nov. 26, and is questionable for Week 13 against the Chicago Bears.

Jordan CameronNov 26 04:43p

Cleveland Browns TE Jordan Cameron (concussion) remains day-to-day, but the team is looking for him to practice symptom-free this week, according to head coach Mike Pettine.

Jordan ReedNov 26 04:13p

Washington Redskins TE Jordan Reed (hamstring) was limited in practice Wednesday, Nov. 26, according to head coach Jay Gruden.

R. Griffin IIINov 26 02:53p

Washington Redskins QB Robert Griffin III needs more seasoning, and he'll likely do it from the bench for the rest of this season, according to head coach Jay Gruden. [ More ]

Arian FosterNov 26 02:33p

Houston Texans RB Arian Foster (groin) has an excellent chance to return in Week 13 against the Tennessee Titans after missing the last two games.

Mark SanchezNov 26 02:23p

Philadelphia Eagles QB Mark Sanchez has thrown six interceptions this year, but all of them haven't been game-changing turnovers. In Week 12 against the Tennessee Titans, Sanchez thrived on [ More ]

Larry FitzgeraldNov 26 01:53p

Arizona Cardinals WR Larry Fitzgerald (knee) felt some progress in his sprained left medial collateral ligament Tuesday, Nov. 25, according to head coach Bruce Arians. Fitzgerald was pretty upset [ More ]

Julius ThomasNov 26 01:23p

Denver Broncos TE Julius Thomas (ankle) was limited at practice Wednesday, Nov. 26.

Phil LoadholtNov 26 12:33p

Minnesota Vikings OT Phil Loadholt (pectoral) was placed on the Reserve/Injured list Wednesday, Nov. 26.

Geno SmithNov 26 12:23p

New York Jets QB Geno Smith will return to the starting quarterback role in Week 13 against the Miami Dolphins, after QB Michael Vick saw only three starts. The [ More ]

Timothy WrightNov 26 10:43a

New England Patriots TE Tim Wright has 23 catches on 26 targets this season. 'Every time we throw to him it's a touchdown - we'll try to find him [ More ]

R. Griffin IIINov 26 09:43a

Washington Redskins QB Robert Griffin III has officially been benched in favor of QB Colt McCoy in Week 13. Head coach Jay Gruden informed the team Wednesday, Nov. 26.

Colt McCoyNov 26 09:43a

Washington Redskins QB Robert Griffin III has officially been benched in favor of QB Colt McCoy in Week 13. Head coach Jay Gruden informed the team Wednesday, Nov. 26.

R. Griffin IIINov 25 11:43p

The Washington Redskins are planning on benching QB Robert Griffin III for the Week 13 game against the Indianapolis Colts in favor of QB Colt McCoy. However, Griffin still [ More ]

Jace AmaroNov 25 05:13p

New York Jets TE Jace Amaro (concussion) is in concussion protocol, according to head coach Rex Ryan, after suffering the concussion in Week 12 against the Buffalo Bills.

R. Griffin IIINov 25 04:23p

Washington Redskins QB Robert Griffin III was named the starter for Week 13 against the Indianapolis Colts Monday, Nov. 24, by head coach Jay Gruden, but he left open [ More ]

Michael BushNov 25 04:13p

The Arizona Cardinals signed free-agent RB Michael Bush (Bears) and cut RB Kerwynn Williams Tuesday, Nov. 25.

Brandon McManusNov 25 03:43p

The Denver Broncos waived PK Brandon McManus Tuesday, Nov. 25.

Connor BarthNov 25 03:43p

The Denver Broncos signed free-agent PK Connor Barth (Buccaneers) to an undisclosed deal Tuesday, Nov. 25, after waiving PK Brandon McManus, according to a source.

Reggie BushNov 25 03:13p

Detroit Lions RB Reggie Bush (ankle) said he'll be ready to play Thursday, Nov. 27, after missing Week 12 with an ankle injury.

Latavius MurrayNov 25 02:43p

Oakland Raiders RB Latavius Murray (concussion) will undergo baseline testing for his concussion Tuesday, Nov. 25, according to a league source. He is feeling good, but he must go [ More ]

Brian HoyerNov 25 01:53p

Cleveland Browns QB Brian Hoyer was never in danger of being benched in favor of QB Johnny Manziel in the team's Week 12 win over the Atlanta Falcons, according [ More ]

Blake BortlesNov 25 01:33p

Jacksonville Jaguars QB Blake Bortles went 15-for-27 for just 146 yards and an interception in the team's Week 12 loss to the Indianapolis Colts, and he hasn't tossed a [ More ]

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