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Sunday, September 2, 2012

Terrell McClain Out; Dwan Edwards In

Carolina waived 2011 draftee Terrell McClain, and resolved his position with veteran Dwan Edwards (Buffalo).

Edwards (2nd round, Oregon St, 2004 by Baltimore) played with the Ravens through 2009, playing mostly in a 3-4 under Mike Nolan and Rex Ryan; Buffalo picked him up after, installed him in their 3-4.  Moving to a 4-3 this offseason, he was making $4 million and there was one less spot for him to start, leading to his cut.

Edwards had 2.5 sacks, 19 hurries and 5 QB hits last year, also amassed what profootballfocus.com rates a "stop", any solo tackle that causes the offense "failure".  They also graded him negatively against the run, and it's hard to say if he's a good fit as a 4-3 under tackle.

McClain's writing was on the wall when still playing deep into the 4th quarter of the final preseason game against the Steelers.  While he had a good pressure early in that game, he was still struggling with issues he'd had throughout his time with the Panthers - pad level, consistency.  His time last year as a starter was drastically inconsistent and often had problems with gap integrity.

It's a good move, in that Carolina required another veteran and never made a move.  Edwards probably upgrades things a bit, not forcing them to start backup NT Sione Fua, or former waiver pickup Frank Kearse and exposing them to too many snaps.   On the downside, it appears their patches put on from last year just didn't work and the team should be smart enough to wrap up a better defensive tackle in the draft next year, if they're not just snake-bitten at the position in general.

Since drafting elite DT Kris Jenkins in 2001, Carolina failed to draft one for four years, leading to Atiyyah Ellison in the 3rd; he didn't make it out of camp without being cut. Four years later, 6th rounder Nick Hayden wasn't expected to be a world-beater but stuck by default only, and was gone two years later.  A year after Hayden, 3rd rounder Corvey Irvin was cut out of camp as well.  Two more years passed and Carolina drafted McClain and Stanford NT Sione Fua as a duo in the 3rd round.

Look before that, and it's impossible to find anyone in the Panthers' history other than 2000's Alvin McKinley that is even identified as a DT.

McClain, because he was injured a week later than Fua, became the 2nd highest game starter at DT in Panthers' history from a guy they drafted, behind Jenkins.  Simply by starting 12 games, he's 2nd.  It's not a good homegrown history for Carolina.

Ron Rivera felt good about his DTs in the offseason, stating:
"I agree that we weren't good enough there, but we weren't good enough until Week 12, when you started seeing things come together. Why? Because we had enough guys in place that finally got it and understood it. ... People can miss the point. They say, 'We were so bad against the run.' When were we bad? Early in the year, when we threw a bunch of young guys to the wolves. It seems like some people don't want to believe in what our guys are doing."

By that point, McClain and Fua were injured, and mercifully, things got better.  Even in the hopeful statement, the rookies were excluded.  With Ron Edwards, and now Dwan Edwards, finally providing leadership and Frank Kearse backing them on the run, the hope is that things will improve.  In that end, Fua himself may want to watch that he do the most with his opportunities before Andre Neblett returns from suspension - he and Kearse were the ones starting when things were going well.
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