Aside from the Panthers’ only win this season, a Week three 16-10 triumph over the Jaguars, the defense has allowed at least 28 points in every game during the ’11 campaign.
The 163 points allowed, (27.2 points per game allowed), is tied for last in the NFL with the winless Colts.
Without linebackers Jon Beason and Thomas Davis, the Falcons’ Michael Turner, like Bears running back Matt Forte, ran all over and around (many long outside gains) Sean McDermott’s defense in Atlanta this past Sunday. Ranked 31st defending the run, surrendering 140.3 yards per contest, could a change in alignment fix the Panthers’ struggles against the run?
In the Week six 31-17 loss at the Georgia Dome, McDermott’s group showed the three-defensive linemen/four-linebacker look three times.
It “was just a small wrinkle,” McDermott said. “We’ll see as we move forward how big that package becomes.”
Consider, head coach Ron Rivera ran the 3-4 as San Diego’s defensive coordinator last year when the Chargers were No. 1 in the league in total defense.
Rivera, a linebacker for arguably the greatest and most innovative defensive unit ever, the ’85 Bears, said he “feels very confident in the 3-4 and what it brings to the table”, according to McDermott.
The team’s best defensive player, sack artist Charles Johnson (five sacks this season), likes the option of standing up to rush the passer in the 3-4.
“We only ran it a couple of times, but you can rush the passer a little bit better just by standing up,” Johnson said. “You can see it better.”
Linebacker Antwan Applewhite, who started 13 games for the Chargers under Rivera last season, said the Panthers could benefit from the 3-4 because the majority of their opponents (from the NFC) are not game-planning against the scheme as often as AFC clubs have to.
Any change is worth entertaining for the struggling Panthers’ defense at this point.