Focusing on the 'D'
Panthers take LB Morgan, add two defensive tackles
Updated: Saturday April 21, 2001 8:00 PM
CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) -- The Carolina Panthers addressed their defensive needs Saturday, selecting linebacker Dan Morgan from Miami with the 11th overall pick and signing defensive tackle Brenston Buckner before the NFL Draft even began.
Then in the second round, the Panthers got more defensive help by drafting tackle Kris Jenkins out of Maryland with the 44th pick.
Morgan, an All-American last season, is expected to fill the hole at outside linebacker created when the Panthers waived Lee Woodall in a salary-cap move two months ago.
He'll also be counted on to improve what was one of the league's worst run defenses last season -- Carolina ranked 27th in total defense, giving up 121.5 rushing yards a game.
That shouldn't be a problem for Morgan, who has already drawn comparison to Baltimore linebacker Ray Lewis, the Super Bowl MVP and one of the many products from Miami's long list of NFL linebackers.
"I feel we definitely have some similarities," Morgan said of Lewis. "We both can run sideline to sideline and we both make plays -- a lot of plays. So if people want to compare me to him, that's fine."
Carolina linebackers coach Sam Mills, a five-time Pro Bowl selection, said Morgan's passion for the game is what earns the comparisons to Lewis.
"He's an impressive guy, a guy that's committed to the game and loves to watch tape," Mills said. "So if you're talking about Ray Lewis, I see the same effort in the two of them."
The selection of Morgan came a few hours after Carolina signed Buckner to a 3-year, $2.4 million contract.
Buckner, who spent the past three seasons with San Francisco, had a career-high six sacks last year and led all of the 49ers' defensive linemen with 61 tackles.
"We think Buckner is going to add some strength and depth on our defense," Carolina coach George Seifert said.
Seifert expects Morgan, the player Carolina coveted from the start, to do the same.
Seifert said Carolina listened to trade offers for their pick, but said none were worth giving up the chance to draft Morgan.
The Panthers grew a little nervous when Green Bay picked right before them. Seifert said he let out a sigh of relief when the Packers went with defensive end Jamal Reynolds of Florida State.
Carolina snapped up Morgan minutes later.
"As we watched the draft unfold there was some concern that Dan might go right in front of us," Seifert said. "Then it worked out and there we're a lot of happy faces around here -- we got the player we were looking to draft."
Morgan was the first player to win the Butkus Award (nation's top LB), Nagurski Award (defensive player of year) and Bednarik Award (best defensive player) in the same season. He also set school and Big East records with 532 career tackles.
He played outside linebacker his first three seasons at Miami, but moved inside his final year. Now the Panthers expect to move him back outside to complement Lester Towns, who started all 16 games as a rookie last season at inside linebacker.
"I can play inside, outside or both," Morgan said. "Wherever they decide to place me, I can play."
Jenkins, meanwhile, emerged as a dominating pass rusher his senior year at Maryland. He had eight sacks his final year, 10 for his career.
He added 15 pounds to his 6-foot-4 1/2 frame and now weighs in at 320.
"I think one of my strengths is that I can move very well for my size," Jenkins said.