Carolina Panthers Defensive Tackles
|Vernon Butler||6-4||325||Louisiana Tech|
|Kyle Love||6-1||315||Mississippi State|
Related Article: Soliai Thinks Panthers Could Have Best DT Group
Training Camp Battles
Kyle Love vs. Paul Soliai
The Panthers are most likely going to keep four defensive tackles on the roster so this means that the fourth tackle position is sure to come down to Paul Soliai and Kyle Love with the Panthers using their first round pick to select Vernon Butler.
Soliai joined the Panthers as a free agent after being released by the Atlanta Falcons only two seasons into a five-year deal. The big defensive tackle didn't fit head coach Dan Quinn's defensive scheme and was one of the reasons for his release. Soliai's play is similar to Lotulelei in the fact that he is a big run-stuffer and isn't necessarily known for getting pressure on the quarterback. He only has 5.5 sacks in nine seasons.
While Soliai is a former Pro Bowler, he will have to earn his spot on the roster and compete with Kyle Love, who has been with the team for the past year and half. He actually started the 2014 playoff game against the Seattle Seahawks in place of Lotulelei who had suffered a broken foot.
Love saw his role grow last year as he replaced Colin Cole in the defensive tackle rotation and finished with 19 tackles and three sacks.
These are two good tackles and right now Soliai most likely has the edge as Vernon Butler is more of a pass rush threat and Soliai can complement him with his play against the run.
Player to Watch
This has the potential to be a big year for the former first round pick. The Panthers' picked up his fifth-year option, keeping him under contract through the 2017 season but it would make sense that the two sides discuss a possible extension next offseason.
If Lotulelei hopes for a big extension, this upcoming season will be vital for that. He has dealt with some injury issues as of late suffering a broken foot at the end of the 2014 season. He has only played a full 16-game schedule once in his three years in the NFL, which happened his rookie season in 2013.
He also has seen his stats decline from that rookie season when he had 42 tackles and three sacks and has only had 47 tackles and three sacks in the two years since. However, being more than a full year removed from his broken foot should allow him to enter training camp healthy and start the year strong. He is one player that I expect to have a big season in 2016.