Kemoeatu and Jenkins may be the key

Forgive Dan Morgan if he can't suppress a smile when he sees the mammoth defensive tackle tandem of Ma'ake Kemoeatu and Kris Jenkins walking around in the Carolina Panthers locker room these days. Morgan knows they may be the key to him having a monster season and the Panthers getting back to the Super Bowl.

Part of the reason Carolina signed Kemoeatu to a five-year, $23 million contract and paired him with the former two-time All-Pro Jenkins was to free up Morgan to make more plays. It's a similar concept to when the 2000 Baltimore Ravens used defensive tackles Sam Adams and Tony Siragusa to allow middle linebacker Ray Lewis the freedom to move around. Lewis won the league's MVP award and the Ravens won the Super Bowl.

"The Ravens had two big tackles in there that kept Ray Lewis free, and that's something that we want to create for Dan Morgan the best we can," said Panthers coach John Fox, whose New York Giants lost to the Ravens that season in Super Bowl XXXV. "Right now, the plan is to have both Kris and Ma'ake in there, and we'll see where that goes."

The Panthers like what they've seen from Kemoeatu on tape, and the hope is Jenkins can return to being one of the game's most dominating interior defensive linemen after missing 30 of 35 games over the past two seasons due to shoulder and knee injuries.

Jenkins did not participate in the rookie mini-camp.

If Jenkins can make it back -- and all signs are he will -- the Panthers will have two of the bigger (and better) defensive tackles in the league.

Kemoeatu admitted last week he weighs more than 360 pounds, and Jenkins, who hasn't been able to do much running over the past year, certainly isn't far behind.

"They are huge men," Morgan said. "They have to be the biggest defensive tackle tandem in the league. And I get happy every time I see them. They are two big guys who will be able to clog up the middle, so hopefully I don't see any blockers on me this year. And that would be huge. I think they're going to help our whole team out, but especially me. It will keep blockers off of me and let me run."

At this weekend's mini-camp, defensive line coach Sal Sunseri was shouting at his players to "get skinny" as they maneuvered through blockers.

To that, Kemoeatu chuckled.

"It's hard to get skinny when you weigh 360-plus, you know," he laughed. "It's tough to do."

The Panthers made Kemoeatu their top priority in free agency, signing him on the first day.

Fox knew the Panthers had no shot at either of the top two defensive tackles in the NFL draft -- Oregon's Haloti Ngata or Florida State's Brodrick Bunkley -- because they were drafting so low, so instead they nabbed Kemoeatu while they could.

That, despite the fact Kemoeatu hasn't put up overwhelming tackle numbers and had only four career sacks in four NFL seasons.

But then again, making tackles or getting to the quarterback isn't what Kemoeatu has been asked to do in Baltimore. His job there is similar to what it will be in Carolina -- take up space and free up the middle linebacker to become the star.

"If that's part of my job, keeping guys off of Dan, then I will be doing that -- just like I did for Ray Lewis in Baltimore," Kemoeatu said. "I know that is my job description. Some guys are here to kick the ball and some guys are here to catch the ball. I'm here to help out the team any way possible and if that means clogging up the middle and keeping guys off Dan so he can make more plays, if that is the way we can get to the Super Bowl, that is the way I'm going to play it."

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