In My Opinion

Carolina Panthers 2013 draft is a BIG deal

April 26, 2013 

Restock the training table. Reinforce the chairs. Make sure the 5XL workout T-shirts are in stock.

The Carolina Panthers suddenly can’t get enough of the big guys – they drafted their second straight 300-plus pound defensive tackle Friday night in the second round.

“We got another hog molly,” Panthers coach Ron Rivera said, speaking of Purdue defensive tackle Kawann Short.

Already, Panthers general manager Dave Gettleman’s first draft is shaping up as quite different than the team’s first 18. The Panthers had never taken a defensive tackle in the first round until Thursday night, when they chose Utah’s Star Lotulelei. They certainly had never taken back-to-back defensive tackles in the first two rounds until this draft.

There’s a famous line in the movie “Jaws” where one guy looks at the great white shark prowling the ocean and says to the sea captain: “You’re gonna need a bigger boat.” The Panthers are going to need a bigger team plane if this keeps up.

In only eight days, the term “hog molly” has become the new standard phrase in Panther land, replacing old standbys like “It is what it is” and “We picked a bad day to have a bad day” (two John Fox classics). Its usage as a verb (“He sure got hog mollied on that one”) is inevitable.

The term will grow old, undoubtedly, but Gettleman’s approach is refreshing and correct.

An NFL team is more about the quarterback than anything else. But the Panthers already have one of those in budding star Cam Newton. The next most important sections of a squad are the offensive and defensive lines – the men who either protect or attack that quarterback.

What Gettleman hasn’t done yet is upgrade the aging Panthers’ offensive line enough. I’d like to see at least one draft pick used on that unit Saturday – and the Panthers have only three selections left – because other teams will scheme all summer to figure out ways to hit Newton more.

But give the Panthers credit for this: They just threw a whole lot of resources into ensuring that Drew Brees, Matt Ryan and Josh Freeman won’t get too comfortable in the pocket for the next few years. As the old saying goes, a quarterback can’t complete passes while on his back, and that’s the Panthers’ goal.

Both new Panthers’ DTs are a couple of inches over 6 feet and around 310 pounds. But their skill sets are different. Gettleman said the Panthers believe that Short was the best pass-rushing defensive tackle in the draft. Lotulelei is more of a space-eating run stopper who doesn’t get to the quarterback as often but is very effective at keeping his linebackers clean.

Will they both start? No, not right away. Rivera isn’t going to bench Dwan Edwards for a rookie. But one of them will – likely Lotulelei to begin with – and the other will play a lot. The Panthers rotate defensive tackles and ends constantly, and defensive tackles who can push the center back into the quarterback’s face make it easier for ends like Charles Johnson and Greg Hardy to get sacks.

“Plenty of snaps for everybody,” Gettleman said. “Plenty of work.”

Inevitably, that will turn out to be true. Someone will get hurt. Someone will get tired. The rookie defensive tackles will be pressed into service quickly enough that announcers will have to learn how to pronounce their names sooner rather than later.

Maybe one of them won’t work out that well. But Gettleman has hedged his bet with these back-to-back picks, doubling down on the big men.

This is not a glamorous draft for the Panthers. But ultimately, we will look back on it as an effective one.

In the meantime, somebody order some more food.

Scott Fowler: sfowler@charlotteobserver.com; Twitter: @Scott_Fowler

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