As the Panthers convert to a 3-4 front under new defensive coordinator Ejiro Evero, the holdover talent from the Matt Rhule era is working to adjust to the new scheme. And according to new defensive line coach Todd Wash, an under-the-radar lineman is transitioning well to the new-look attack.
Wash says defensive tackle Bravvion Roy — a fourth-year lineman from Baylor — is impressing in the early stages of the offseason program.
“He’s really starting to flash and show some things in this ‘gym class,’ we call it right now, instead of football,” Wash said with a laugh. “In ‘gym class,’ he’s really flashing. I like some of the things that he’s doing.”
Roy is a bit undersized for a nose tackle in a traditional 3-4 defense.
Although he weighs 330 pounds, his 6-foot-1 height is below the norm at the position. Still, given his low center of gravity, he can be of use in giving the defense a leg up in the trenches.
“Down in there, things happen quick,” Wash said. “And they’re trying to get movement and disruption in the middle of our defense. So, a guy that may be a little bit shorter, but he’s stout and explosive, he’s able to sit in there versus the double teams and hold the point.
“So, I think that’s important, not only just the pad level and that kind of stuff, but if you have a wrestling background — I’m not sure if Bravvion does — but you understand leverage and how to able to lean and feel pressure and stuff, and I think that’s very important in our package.”
Along with Roy, Wash singled out fellow holdover Marquan McCall and former Lions lineman John Penisini as fits at nose tackle.
“I had (Penisini) in Detroit — he’s a true nose guard,” Wash said. “Once he starts getting out there and practicing with us, we feel we have two guys that are big, stout players on the inside with McCall and Penny.”
The trio of interior linemen will battle for snaps this summer, and Wash feels good about the group in the middle.
“We’ve got three guys,” Wash said. “It’s going to be a really great competition once we get to actual football and training camp.”
Former first-round pick Derrick Brown and free-agent addition Shy Tuttle are expected to be two of the team’s three starters on the defense line. Wash says the pair has the versatility to move along the front this season.
“I think Derrick and Shy both have the ability to play the defensive end spot or the nose spot,” Wash said. “When we’re in our (sub-package) defense, our four-down (front), Derrick and Shy — along with Henry (Anderson) and the rest of them — will all play the same two positions.”
Tuttle’s ability to move along the line appealed to the Panthers in free agency, according to Wash.
“The reason we were so interested in him is because of his flexibility,” Wash said. “The defense that he ran in New Orleans is similar with alignments and stuff — the techniques and the names are totally different — but we feel he has flexibility to play inside and outside. That’s why we felt it was such a great pickup for our organization.”
Brown’s versatility within the scheme could help him improve as a pass rusher in the new defense. Wash hopes to accelerate that aspect of Brown’s game this season.
“Right now, we all understand, and everybody out there understands, he’s a great run defender,” Wash said. “He’s big, strong — he’s stout and he can play all of the positions across the board. The biggest thing we’re going to start working is the pass rush side of things. He’s a big athlete. He’s 330 pounds, but he has the ability and speed and explosiveness to get on the edges of guards. So, that’s the biggest thing we’re working on.
“But before that can even happen, we talk about in our room that you have to earn the right to rush the quarterback. So we’ve got to do a good job of stopping the run, and then hopefully, we’re going to be able to get Derrick better than he is right now against the pass.”