Everette Brown, Defensive end
THE DEPARTED Julius Peppers will be replaced by committee—most likely a combination of run-stopper Charles Johnson, highly touted rookie Greg Hardy and rush-end Everette Brown. The key to the committee's success will be Brown, a 2009 second-round pick who has some of the quickness of Peppers but little of the power.
While Peppers was a three-down, 6'7", 280-pound, complete defensive end, the 6'1", 260-pound Brown is more of a classic third-down rusher who relies on speed and changeup moves. Carolina will likely move veteran Tyler Brayton from left end to right, facing him against the better pass blocker on opposing offenses. Brown will rotate to the left side on passing downs, although coach John Fox might experiment with shifting Brown and Brayton on third downs, depending on in-game matchups.
For Fox, pressure is as important as sacks. Peppers had 81 sacks in eight seasons, but Fox believes he had additional value in his ability to rattle quarterbacks. Brown had just 2½ sacks in limited playing time last year, but one of those came against Brett Favre in the Panthers' upset of Minnesota in December, when Brown raced by left tackle Bryant McKinnie for a first-quarter sack that started a deluge of Carolina pressure. And that's what the second-year end from Florida State hopes to bring to the field this fall.
"What I did at Florida State was set the tempo and the tone for our pass rush," Brown says. "For me, the game comes down to my speed. I'm not sure how many guys can turn the corner, dip and gain speed, but that's my game. My goal every game is to make that blocker fear my speed."
Even as he attempts to pressure quarterbacks, Brown will feel pressure himself as the heir to Peppers. If he goes three or four games without a sack, he'll hear about it. "People expect me to be great, and so do I," he says. "I'm an inner-drive guy." For the Panthers not to miss Peppers, Brown will need to be a sack guy.