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Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Carolina Duo, Trio Are Tops

Carolina’s pair of starting defensive ends, Charles Johnson and Greg Hardy, lead the league as a tandem for sacks with 14.  The next closest pair, the Giants’ Jason Pierre Paul and  Osi Umenyiora have 10.5.

Add in DT Dwan Edwards, and the Panthers may have the league’s best trio – Edwards has 5 for a trio of 19.  The Giants’ Linval Joseph (a DT) has 4.0 (for 14.5 total amongst the three).  The Giants have more sacks overall, at 25 (Carolina has 24).  These numbers are, of course, unofficial. Johnson’s 3 forced fumbles are 4th in the league for all positions, and doesn’t count the sack-fumble of Drew Brees that was taken away when Brees recovered the fumble and threw the ball away; the sack total also doesn’t count the non-call in the same game where Greg Hardy sacked Brees but refs failed to call his knee down.

The pair of ends had a solid 2011, but Johnson got hurt and started playing less; Hardy, on the other hand, as a first year starter, got overworked, playing 90+% of snaps most games.  Johnson finished with 9; Hardy, 4.  That total of 13 for the season is less than the pair’s current total at 8 games in; it’s unlikely that they’d finish at this pace, but if so they would deliver 28 total sacks for the season and the team would have 48.

Almost more interesting than the fierce push that the trio of rushers have provided?  They’re not getting any help.

Carolina has yet to register a sack from a non-defensive lineman – though a few of those sacks may have come from a 3-4 set, no traditional LB or DB has a sack on the season. 19 of those sacks coming from three players is unique for this style of defense, and while rookie Frank Alexander has provided 2.5 as well, the team hasn’t received as much as anticipated from Antwan Applewhite (1.0).  Thomas Keiser has a half sack in limited time, and DT Ron Edwards has a sack.

So all of the production has been from the front four, and the defense has responded in recent weeks – gone are the elaborate blitzes, and honestly, even the double A-gap blitz fakes.  Carolina does some walking up to the line, but for the most part has stayed closer to where they line up, and that can make a difference, too – being out of position at the snap for a run can be problematic, and it can alter your trajectory toward a short pass in zone.   The team doesn’t want to become too easy to read, but I was getting tired of seeing the double A-gap fakes out of nickel, and it didn’t really fool anyone.  For Carolina’s LBs, the better way to get things done is to send a guy from the snap without a fake, and let the speed help; either you get caught or not, but you have a better chance.

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