As a Panthers homer, I’m very excited about Ron Rivera as our new head coach with Sean McDermott as his defensive coordinator. I have nothing much against John Fox and am happy for the Broncos in hiring him, but sometimes everybody needs a change of scenery, and that was clearly the case here.
Despite Rivera’s experience running a 3-4 defensive scheme in San Diego, he made it clear from day one that he would stick with our current 4-3 alignment. This was underscored when we grabbed McDermott the moment he surprisingly became available. Now we have not one, but two strong defensive minds on the case.
Maybe my homerism colors my opinion, but I see this as good news for most of our current IDPs. The Panthers need help at defensive tackle and in the secondary but already have a lot of good players to build around to become competitive again in the loaded NFC South.
Charles Johnson – Johnson flew under the radar most of last season because no one believed anyone could fill the shoes of Julius Peppers. He was ignored enough that I could snag him on waiver wires late in the season despite his 50 solo tackles and 10.5 sacks. Granted, most of those stats came starting in Week 10, but those of us watching him closely could see it coming.
Johnson is only 24 and will be entering his fourth season, so he still has plenty of room to grow. He will be a free agent during the offseason, so signing him to a long-term contract will be a top priority for the new Panthers regime. McDermott coached Trent Cole in Philadelphia to the top of the defensive end rankings in 2010, demonstrating he can do it again with similar talent. With rookie Greg Hardy coming on and Carolina almost certainly drafting a top DT with the first pick, the stars are aligning to make Johnson an IDP stud for the next several years…