The debate over whether the Panthers were wise to trade their 2010 first-round pick to draft DE Everette Brown in the second round last year is simmering as Brown prepares to help fill the void left by DE Julius Peppers' departure this offseason.
Sources say the Panthers are still very high on Brown, a quick-twitch speed rusher who made 2½ sacks as a rookie. We hear he's a hard worker and is very coachable. He has many of the traits necessary to become a quality NFL contributor. Yet, he struggled to hold his ground vs. bulky run blockers last season and there are some who remain unconvinced that he'll develop into a player worthy of the price Carolina paid to draft him. Some observers say he just didn't look like an NFL defensive end in '09 and would have benefited from staying in college for another year.
While it's not certain that Brown will go from being a nickel pass rusher to a three-down player at right end in 2010, he's expected to do more than just play on passing downs, and he has been adding some much-needed weight in the offseason with the goal of becoming a more capable run defender. Brown reportedly has added 10 pounds and is weighing in around 260, which still makes him lighter than many defensive ends. Reports indicate he doesn't believe the extra weight has cost him any speed.
The Panthers have to hope that's the case. There is great pressure on the Florida State product to replace at least a good chunk of the production Peppers, who made double-digit sacks in six of his eight seasons, provided. If Brown doesn't do it, Carolina could be in trouble. No defensive end on the roster has made more than six sacks in a season.
If Brown is unable to show any improvement when it comes to stopping the run, the Panthers could turn to fourth-year veteran DE Charles Johnson, who started two games last season, on first and second downs before inserting Brown into the nickel package. Carolina re-signed DE Tyler Brayton to a three-year deal in March. Brayton has started at left end for the past two seasons and is slotted to play the same spot in '10. He can move inside to tackle in passing situation to make room for Brown or Johnson to rush off the edge.
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