For much of the past decade, the Panthers’ pass rush has been a one-man show. DE Greg Hardy has not allowed that to be the case this season, though.
Hardy has blossomed into more than just a complementary pass rusher in his third season — in Week 15, he became the first Panthers player not named Julius Peppers or Charles Johnson to record double-digit sacks in a season since 2003.
Hardy, who had a combined seven sacks in his first two seasons, leads Carolina with 11 sacks. Johnson is a close second with 10½. Hardy has been productive rushing off the edge and the interior — he lines up at defensive tackle in certain packages.
He is versatile, and he brings a swagger that head coach Ron Rivera has welcomed, we hear. Hardy made news earlier this month when he said the Panthers, then 3-9, were a better team than the Falcons (then 11-1) ahead of the teams’ Week 14 meeting, which Carolina won. Hardy can be enigmatic, but we’re told Rivera is very happy with where Hardy is at physically and mentally this season.