Charles Johnson was a little more fluid staying at left end last year,
after 2011's swapping between left and right; Greg Hardy, in better
shape, struggled less because he was able to pull his snap count per
game down a little as well.
But, last year Hardy started the season at around 300 lbs; it was a
lean, 5% bodyfat 300 lbs that looked deceiving. It added power to
Hardy's game. It didn't make him look any less slow on the occasional
punt team, where Hardy sometimes shows up as a gunner and typically
makes it downfield before anyone else.
And, yet, that left Hardy as a 300 lb right end, where most teams use a
lighter guy. And Johnson, who had once played at 290 as a 3rd year to
play more inside, was lighter. It was a role reversal. It's hard to
argue with the results, but they've returned more to a standard setup.
Hardy, 6'4, has shed to about 280. Hopefully that follows Johnson's
trajectory - the year after he lost the weight of 2009, his 2010 was his
breakout year. Hardy, of course, already broke out at 11 sacks last
year at his heavier weight, so it'll be hard to expect the same jump.
But he's leaner, and that should help his edge rush.
The hope is that Hardy's run game issues in 2011 were, in fact, high
snaps played. Hardy also had problems being overaggressive/not staying
at home, not keeping contain. That's a tough thing for an end, who has
to get upfield as much as possible against the pass, to learn, but Hardy
was better this past year. It's a tough recognition in a league that
does so much play-pass, so much draw, relies mostly on zone runs, and
now that also includes the read-option zone.
Johnson, meanwhile, notes that he's back up near 290, adding muscle to
play the run better at his natural left end spot.
I almost have mixed feelings about that. Johnson, who has 33 sacks in
the last 3 seasons and, at that pace, is going to equal Mike Rucker's
career mark for sacks this year. For those scoring at home, Julius
Peppers has 30 sacks over the last 3 years, and required 4.5 sacks in
weeks 15/16 to make it to double digit sacks in 2012. So, I have to
trust Johnson's intentions.
But, while Johnson's want to get better against the run is more than
admirable, he's not the weak link there. Carolina's going to need to
be good against the run to get to 3rd down, prior a week spot and now a
spot Carolina should be able to tee off on the QB. That's when they
need Johnson at his best. But, with his recent production, it's hard to
argue with him.