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

Peyton ManningJan 30 12:52p

Denver Broncos QB Peyton Manning may make a decision on whether he plans to return for another season in the near future, according to his dad, Archie Manning. Archie [ More ]

Brandon MarshallJan 30 10:42a

Chicago Bears WR Brandon Marshall may not return to the team in 2015, in the opinion of ESPNChicago.com's Michael C. Wright. The thinking is that Marshall and WR Alshon [ More ]

LeSean McCoyJan 30 02:32a

Philadelphia Eagles RB LeSean McCoy has said he would restructure his contract to lower the $11.95 million cap hit for 2015, but he will not take a pay cut.

Larry FitzgeraldJan 29 05:52p

Arizona Cardinals WR Larry Fitzgerald's new contract should be able to get worked out this offseason, according to team president Michael Bidwill. 'Larry and I have met about it, [ More ]

Earl ThomasJan 29 01:12p

Seattle Seahawks FS Earl Thomas (shoulder) was administered a human growth hormone test by the league Wednesday, Jan. 28, and he believes it was directed at him after he [ More ]

Austin CollieJan 29 03:33a

Free-agent WR Austin Collie (Patriots) signed a contract with the Montreal Alouettes of the Canadian Football League on Wednesday, Jan. 28.

Tom BradyJan 28 12:33p

New England Patriots QB Tom Brady (illness) admitted that he is currently battling a cold, but he said he expects to be 100% ready for the Super Bowl Sunday, [ More ]

Brandon MebaneJan 27 11:23p

Seattle Seahawks DL Brandon Mebane (hamstring) said Tuesday, Jan. 27, that his hamstring surgery went well and he should be full go for the team's offseason program in April.

Richard ShermanJan 27 11:23p

Seattle Seahawks CB Richard Sherman (elbow) has torn ligaments in his elbow, but he is improving daily and he is no longer receiving treatment for the injury.

LeGarrette BlountJan 27 08:33p

New England Patriots RB LeGarrette Blount should be a factor in Super Bowl XLIX against the Seattle Seahawks Sunday, Feb. 1, in the opinion of Boston Herald writer Karen [ More ]

Adrian PetersonJan 27 07:43p

Minnesota Vikings RB Adrian Peterson was directed by NFL commissioner Roger Goodell to meet with a league-assigned psychiatrist following Peterson's suspension. The National Football League Players Association is now [ More ]

Rob GronkowskiJan 27 12:23p

New England Patriots TE Rob Gronkowski is an offensive weapon that the Seattle Seahawks are focused on shutting down during the Super Bowl Sunday, Feb. 1. Seahawks head coach [ More ]

Trent RichardsonJan 27 10:43a

Indianapolis Colts RB Trent Richardson's one-game suspension for conduct detrimental to the team voided the guarantee of a $3,184,062 salary in 2015.

Josh GordonJan 26 02:13p

Cleveland Browns WR Josh Gordon is in Stage Three of an alcohol program, which requires him to be tested for alcohol for a minimum of two years. His failed [ More ]

Rob GronkowskiJan 26 02:03p

New England Patriots TE Rob Gronkowski could cause a problem for the Seattle Seahawks during Super Bowl XLIX, because the Seahawks defense allowed 11 touchdowns to tight ends this [ More ]

Earl ThomasJan 26 02:03p

Seattle Seahawks FS Earl Thomas (shoulder) said he won't miss the Super Bowl against the New England Patriots with a dislocated shoulder, but he also admitted that it won't [ More ]

Odell Beckham Jr.Jan 26 01:52p

New York Giants WR Odell Beckham Jr. (hamstring) said he'll need to shut himself down this offseason in order to enter 2015 fully healthy and in great shape. He [ More ]

Josh GordonJan 26 12:33p

Cleveland Browns WR Josh Gordon tested positive for alcohol, according to sources, and his failed test will subject him to a possible one-year suspension. Gordon caught 24 passes for [ More ]

Vontaze BurfictJan 26 12:23p

Cincinnati Bengals LB Vontaze Burfict (knee) is recovering from microfracture surgery on his left knee, and the surgeon who operated on him is hoping that he will be at [ More ]

Odell Beckham Jr.Jan 26 11:22a

New York Giants WR Odell Beckham Jr. (hamstring) said he played this season with two tears in his right hamstring, which never fully healed.

Josh GordonJan 25 09:12p

Cleveland Browns WR Josh Gordon will be under contract through the 2016 season, and he will only be a restricted free agent after that year due to his looming [ More ]

Josh GordonJan 25 04:12p

Cleveland Browns WR Josh Gordon has reportedly failed another drug test and will be subject to a one-year banishment, according to multiple league sources.

Earl ThomasJan 23 09:02p

Seattle Seahawks FS Earl Thomas (shoulder) will play in the Super Bowl, head coach Pete Carroll said Friday, Jan. 23.

Dennis PittaJan 23 04:22p

Baltimore Ravens TE Dennis Pitta (hip) met with some specialists last week, but the team is not expected to have an update on his status for a few weeks, [ More ]

Johnny ManzielJan 23 01:12p

Cleveland Browns QB Johnny Manziel had a big proponent last year in owner Jimmy Haslam, but Haslam now thinks the team needs a quarterback in order to get their [ More ]

Jimmy GrahamJan 23 10:32a

New Orleans Saints TE Jimmy Graham (shoulder) said he'll rehabilitate his shoulder injury after the Pro Bowl, but he hasn't made a final decision on surgery. 'It's something we [ More ]

Mark IngramJan 22 06:42p

New Orleans Saints RB Mark Ingram, who will be eligible for free agency this offseason, wants to return to the team next year, and he thinks the interest is [ More ]

Vernon DavisJan 22 06:22p

San Francisco 49ers TE Vernon Davis had just two touchdowns in 2014, and they both came in Week 1. He also wasn't targeted at all in the red zone [ More ]

Geno SmithJan 22 05:32p

New York Jets QB Geno Smith has a lot of talent and promise, according to new head coach Todd Bowles. At the same time, Bowles acknowledged that the quarterback [ More ]

Brian HoyerJan 22 04:52p

Cleveland Browns QB Brian Hoyer could be re-signed this offseason, according to his agent. Hoyer is expected to meet with general manager Ray Farmer and offensive coordinator John DeFilippo in the near future.

Johnny ManzielJan 22 02:43p

Cleveland Browns QB Johnny Manziel will be working with a new offensive coordinator this year in John DeFilippo, but DeFilippo is unsure if the team's quarterback next year is [ More ]

Joe FlaccoJan 22 12:52p

Baltimore Ravens QB Joe Flacco will have his fourth difference offensive coordinator in as many years in offensive coordinator Marc Trestman. However, head coach John Harbaugh is confident Flacco [ 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