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As the Panthers prepare for the free pick and draft, let’s take a look back at the defensive newbies who have seen the field last year and what that could mean for 2021. Carolina famously invested all seven of his 2020 draft picks in defensive players, much to look forward to here.
Jeremy Chinn, LB-967 defensive, snap up 104 special teams
The versatile no.64 in the 2020 draft had an incredible rookie year with 117 tackles, five passes defended, a sack and two fiddly touchdowns. He finished second after Chase Young in the Defensive Rookie of the Year election. He struggled with coverage at times, but once he refined that part of his game he was able to become an elite player with the flexibility to play multiple positions.
Implications for 2021: With a full season, Chinn could actually destroy people next year. Look for him to do a Pro Bowl push in 2021.
Derrick Brown, DT – 742 defensive, grab 73 special teams
The number 7 in the 2020 draft showed that this is a special player who can cause chaos in the middle of the line. His 34 tackles and two sacks don’t jump off the side, but the impact of center-backs can’t always be measured in traditional statistics. That said, his 12 quarterback hits were only followed by Brian Burns (21) and Efe Obada (15).
Implications for 2021: Brown will continue his starting role on the defensive.
Troy Pride, Jr., CB-529 defensive, capture 141 specialty teams
Pride went exactly as expected from a fourth-round selection (# 113) in a rebuild: He played 14 games with eight starts, had 42 tackles, two passes defended, and no interceptions. This looks pretty good on paper, but he struggled with reporting and gave off the QB rating of 117.8 when targeted.
Implications for 2021: Hopefully he’s learned from some of his rookie growth ailments and can take a step forward in Year 2. If the Panthers can’t keep the free agent Rasul Douglas, Pride will enter in 2021 as CB3 of the team behind Donte Jackson and Corn Elder, unless other corners are added via the free agency or draft.
Bravvion Roy, DT – 491 defensive, snap up 54 special teams
Roy was one of the pleasant surprises last year. After being drafted in the sixth round (# 184), not only did he make the 53-man roster – which many sixth graders don’t – he actually made some significant contributions. In 15 games he registered 29 tackles, one sack and five quarterback hits. That’s fantastic for a sixth classic!
Implications for 2021: Unless more defensive tackles are added before the season, Roy will start in a two-man rotation with Derrick Brown in the inner line of defense in 2021.
Yetur Gross-Matos, DE – 377 defensive, grab 40 special teams
Gross-Matos caused a lot of excitement after his move in the second round (No. 38), but an ankle injury limited him to 12 games. He put up 24 tackles, 2.5 sacks, and six quarterback hits, but he showed potential that far exceeded his stats.
Implications for 2021: Gross-Matos will have every opportunity to secure the starting place on the defensive against Brian Burns. At one year old and hopefully in clean health, Yetur could be a batsman.
Sam Franklin, SS – 248 Defensive, 156 Special Team Snaps
Getting a production from a UDFA is a sauce, and Franklin exceeded expectations last year.
Franklin had a much better campaign than expected for 2020 as a vacant rookie free agent. He played in 14 games with four starts and was a mainstay of the team. He was good at reporting, allowing only five completions on eleven goals, but he missed nearly 15% of his tackle attempts, which was the second worst on the team for players with at least 20 tries. Getting a production from a UDFA is a sauce, and Franklin exceeded expectations last year.
Implications for 2021: Franklin is currently Juston Burris’ backup on strong security and may have done enough last year to earn himself a regular rotation role in 2021. At least he’ll play a key role in special teams.
Myles Hartsfield, FS – 140 defensive, snatch 254 special teams
Hartsfield was another successful addition to an uncovered rookie free agent. He played in all 16 games and recorded 14 tackles and two fiddly recoveries. He played sparingly in defense until the teams had played the last three games, when he took 96 of his 140 snapshots a year. However, his 254 snapshots of specialty teams were the second most common on the team.
Implications for 2021: Let’s hope Myles is ready to improve as it may become the standard for free launch security following Tre Boston’s surprise release. It is unlikely that Hartsfield will be ready to take on that role in 2021. So don’t be surprised if the Panthers add a veteran in the free agency.
Stantley Thomas-Oliver, CB – 74 defensive, grab 108 special teams
After Thomas-Oliver was drafted in the seventh round (No. 221), he played sparingly in 10 games with seven tackles. He was eaten alive for cover by allowing deals on all nine targets that came in his way. However, Stantley has carved out a regular role on specialty teams.
Implications for 2021: The Panthers are very thin in the cornerback, so from today he is the team’s CB4. There is still a lot of improvement to be done before he is regularly present in secondary school. So look for him to compete for a spot as a contributor on a special team around 2021.
Kenny Robinson, Jr., S-6 Defensive, 128 Special Team Snaps
For the fifth round of voting (No. 152) it was quite a detour in 2020. He was lifted in September, added to the exercise group and promoted to the active squad at the end of October. He played nine games, almost exclusively in special teams, and had a duel.
Implications for 2021: Robinson is another young fringe player who could make up the 53-man squad and play in special teams, end up back in the training team or even be released. With a strong bearing, he was able to land on the roster as an emergency depth and as a contributor to a special team.
Additional 2020 newbies:
Chris Orr, LB – 6 defensive, grab 50 special teams
Clay Johnson, LB – 3 defensive, 21 special teams snap
Which under-the-radar player will play the biggest role in 2021?
Kenny Robinson, Jr.
12 votes in total