Following the Rookies: NFC South Carolina Panthers
The Carolina Panthers overhauled their entire team this past offseason, firing their head coach and letting go of their former franchise QB in Cam Newton. In came Matt Rhule, former Baylor head coach to bring in Joe Brady, the superstar offensive mind of the National Champion LSU Tiger, and Teddy Bridgewater. Along with that they have built a very young, high potential defense with building blocks over the last two drafts. Brian Burns, Yetur Gross-Matos, Derrick Brown, and Jeremy Chinn are just some of the young talent they have brought in. In this article though I am going to cover rookies Derrick Brown And Jeremy Chinn who were 1st and 2nd round picks respectively.
Derrick Brown is a 6'5, 326 pound defensive tackle who moves like a man much smaller than that. He started in all 8 games he has played in, with 18 total tackles (11 solo/7 assisted) with 6 tackles for loss, 1 QB hit, 2 passes defended, 1 hurry, and 1 pressure while playing in an average of 66% of defensive snaps. He shows the ability to play all over the line from a nose tackle position so playing all the way out in a 3-5 gap alignment. After watching some of his film against the Chargers his transition from the college game to the NFL has been very smooth. His burst off the LOS simple just doesn't make sense. A man that size should not possess the get off that he does. Then he shows elite power to be able to handle double teams and dominate one on one matchups with interior linemen. Against the run he has shown good power to not only stand his ground but often drive linemen backward, he does this with a low pad level and very good, precise hand placement. His ability to shed blocks is also elite because of the power, he can just throw linemen off of him. Since he mainly plays only on 1st and 2nd down he hasn't shown much for being a pass rusher. When he does rush the passer though he sticks to what he is good at and that is his strength and power. His room for improvement will come in his ability to add more to his pass rushing arsenal with some speed moves, maybe a better swim or spin move to use to just become that much more dangerous. The future is very bright for Derrick Brown as he is already a very good run defender with the potential of becoming a good pass rusher on top of that.
One of the biggest steals of the 2020 NFL Draft was Panthers safety Jeremy Chinn who was taken in the 2nd round with the 64th pick. He has started in all 8 games he has played in with 67 tackles (38 solo/29 assisted) with 1 tackle for loss, 2 QB hit, 1 interception and 1 pass defended. In the pass game, he has been targeted 43 times giving up 30 completions for 261 yards and 3 touchdowns with a completion percentage of 69.8%. He has been what the Arizona Cardinals hoped Isiah Simmons would be for them. He lines up all over the field at linebacker, deep safety, and slot corner where he is asked to do play many different roles including both deep and shallow zones, man coverage against TEs, RBs, and slot WRs, as well as be a very good run defender. As shown by his stats he is consistently making plays on the ball carrier. One specific play shows just how good he is. On a screen against the Las Vegas Raiders, he lines up as a linebacker with the screen going to the opposite side that he is lined up on. The Raiders did a play-action screen with the running back faking to the right and Derek Carr throwing back to the outside receiver on the left. Chinn bites on the play-action and engages the right tackle, as he diagnoses the play he is able to get off the block from the right tackle and pursue the play from behind and catch the receiver on the opposite side of the field. In this play, you can see exactly why Chinn is in the running for defensive rookie of the year. He can consistently shed blocks, find lanes, get to the ball carrier, and finish tackles. I believe he will continue to thrive in this role but he is best as a box safety where he can play shallow zones and always have an opportunity to get to the ball carrier. The future is very bright for this defense with a young core of players who have shown that they can not only handle the NFL consistently but play at a very high level for the years to come.
*All stats from pro football reference