Entering Camp: Defensive Line Keys

2004 saw both the best and worst of the vaulted Carolina D-line. Early season ending injuries to Kris Jenkins and an almost invisible Mike Rucker gave defenses less fits than the year before. However, with the injury to Jenkins, second year man Kindal Moorehead stepped in and could very well give Buckner a run for his money in this year's training camp.

Julius Peppers was impressive with both his defensive prowess and his ability to turn turnovers into opportunities. This season, with the addition of rookie defensive end Atiyyah Ellison and a healthy front four, expect the Panthers to get back to their previous dominance.

Keys to Success:

Early pressure on the quarterback
Even though the Panthers have come back healthy on their defensive line, the ability to get pressure to the quarterback early and often lead to other teams moving away from their gameplans and becoming one dimensional.

Run stuffing
The Panthers have to show that they can be strong against the run. Too many times in third down situation, other teams were able to pick up enough short yards to move the sticks. To keep the defensive healthy and to keep other teams from putting themselves into scoring situations, the Panthers have to hunker down and win those critical battles in the trenches.

Staying healthy
Even though the Panthers had decent backups to fill in while Kris Jenkins was out, it will take the entire line staying off the injury list for the Panthers to have any hope for a post-season run.

Repeat performance
Julius Peppers is probably the best defensive end in the entire National Football League. Peppers not only has the raw strength, but also considerable quickness and ability to always interfere with a quarterback's decision-making. For the Panthers to be as successful as they were two seasons ago, Peppers needs to continue his pro-bowl caliber play to give the other members of the "four horseman" the opportunity to take advantage of mismatches.

Backups show up
Part of the initial plan this year is to be able to rotate out the first and second stringers, depending on the situation. The Panthers will need the backups to at the very least, be able to hold their ground while the starters get a much needed blow on the sidelines. One can't help but think back to the Super Bowl where the Patriots were able to march down the field almost unopposed because the Panthers defensive line was too gassed to put up any resistance. The good news, as stated above, is that the backups got great experience last year because of injuries that occurred to the Panthers early on in the season. The hope is that the experience received is not forgotten during this season.

The bottom line for the success of this year's Panthers defensive line is consistency and heart. Recently, the heart of several players have been called into question. Hopefully the defensive line comes out this year with a lot to prove and a chip on their shoulder. The success of the Panthers start with defensive and the heart of the defensive is their defensive line. If they do their job well, everyone else's game on defense suddenly becomes a lot better and a whole lot easier. That equates to success and wins across the board.

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