Left Defensive Tackle #1: Kawann Short
The Carolina Panthers drafted two defensive tackles in the 2013 NFL Draft with their first two picks. The team selected Short in the second round and he had a breakout year last season. He finished the year with 40 tackles, 3.5 sacks and two fumble recoveries.
Short finished the year as one of the better defensive tackles according to Pro Football Focus. He was ranked as the eighth best defensive tackle in the NFL with an overall rating of 18.2 and finished 10th in the NFL among defensive tackles with 20 QB hurries.
With how much Short improved and this next player regressed, Short should be considered the best defensive tackle on the roster.
Right Defensive Tackle #1: Star Lotulelei
The other defensive tackle from that Draft was Star Lotulelei, who the team took with their first round selection. After an impressive rookie season, Lotulelei regressed a bit in his sophomore season with his totals dropping from 42 tackles to 25 and sacks from three to two.
One of the reasons for the drop could have been injury issues that Lotuelei battled last season. In Week 10, Lotulelei suffered an ankle injury that forced him to miss two games but he looked to shake that injury by the end of the season.
In the final week of the regular season, Lotulelei had two sacks and four QB hurries against Matt Ryan and the Falcons. However he suffered some bad luck in the week leading up to the Divisional Playoff game against the Seattle Seahawks when he broke his foot in practice. This injury ended the season for the second-year defensive tackle.
If Lotulelei comes back and plays like he did his rookie season, the combination of him and Short strengthens the defensive line and the team should be set at the position for years to come.
Defensive Tackle #2: Dwan Edwards
One of the reasons the defensive tackle is one of the best on the Panthers is because they have youth with their starters but also that they have veteran depth behind them. Dwan Edwards has been in the league for a long time, 11 years to be exact, and is the second oldest player on the roster.
However, he is still producing at a high level with limited snaps. He actually saw his snaps double in 2014 from 2013 mainly due in part to Lotulelei’s injury and struggles. He finished the season with 40 tackles and tied for the team lead among defensive tackles with four sacks.
While he played well last year, the team should hope to limit his snaps a little more in 2015. Edwards is a good depth player but at his age it would be hard to expect him to play as much as he did last year.
Defensive Tackle #3: Colin Cole
Dwan Edwards and Colin Cole could really be 2A and 2B on the depth chart as both are interchangeable and rather similar. Cole is actually one year older than Edwards, and the oldest player on the Panthers, but is only entering his ninth season in the NFL.
In 2010, Cole suffered an ankle injury while with the Seattle Seahawks that required offseason ankle surgery. The rehab took longer than first thought and the Seahawks cut him prior to the 2011 season. He missed both the 2011 and 2012 season while rehabbing the injury.
The time away from football could end up being a blessing in disguise as Cole certainly doesn’t play like a 35 year old. He finished the year with 28 total tackles and actually started for the injured Star Lotulelei in the Divisional Round playoff game against his former team, the Seahawks.
Rest of the Position
The Panthers have four other players currently on the roster at defensive tackle. Unless there is a training camp injury, it is hard to imagine the team carrying more than four on their roster.
The likely candidate to make the roster if they keep five, or need to replace one of these players, would be Kyle Love. The Panthers signed Love last December when the team was having injury issues and he actually saw some playing time in the playoffs. The fact that he knows the system and played with the team last year would give Love a leg up on the other defensive tackles on the roster.
The other three players (Chas Alecxih, Terry Redden, and Micanor Regis) right now seem to be training camp depth. All three would have a serious hill to climb to unseat some of these other tackles on the roster.
Brandon Croce is the Lead Publisher for PantherInsider.com. You can find him on Twitter @BrandonCroce.