With the 175th pick overall in the 2010 NFL draft, the Carolina Panthers took DE Greg Hardy. The 6-4, 280 lb. lineman was certainly not without some fanfare. He had, after all, been a standout player at highly respected Mississippi and shown that he could blow up opposing team’s backfields with regularity on the college level when he was healthy. One of the reasons that he fell that far to the Panthers is because of injuries over the last two years. Hardy clearly was not himself during his final season at Ole Miss.
The Panthers knew they would need some help on the defensive line with the departure of all world DE Julius Peppers, and figured it made sense to take a flyer on the explosive young Hardy. They have got to be patting themselves on the back now. Hardy has blown up for nine tackles and two sacks in the first three preseason games with limited duty, and seems as though he has lived around the football. In fact, he has been in the quarterbacks faces during every game he has played.
Impressively, Hardy has already staked a claim to the Panthers first team rotation, though Charles Johnson, Everette Brown and Tyler Brayton are the most likely starters in a given week. Still, it is obvious that Greg Hardy is going to figure heavily in coordinator Ron Meeks plans for the revamped defensive line rotation. What has been most surprising is that he is also playing the run effectively. The Panthers knew they were getting a great pass rusher, but not necessarily a run stuffer. That has been a bonus.
The Panthers defensive line was thought to be the weakness for the team coming into the preseason due to the departures of Peppers and several other veteran line stuffers. With the emergence of Hardy, Brown and a revived Charles Johnson, the Panthers have been among the best defenses in the league during the preseason. When you figure in a great linebacking corp and stingy secondary, the Panthers seem ready to have a great year on the defensive side of the football. They have registered 18 sacks in only three preseason football games.
Greg Hardy certainly started humbly with the late draft pick, but he certainly is finishing with a fury. The Panthers are certainly glad that he has emerged, and it has helped to take the sting out of Pepper’s departure as well.
Greg Hardy Profile Page on Panthers.com
Greg Hardy Scouting Page