Around 4:30 PM on Wednesday, the Panthers announced that DT Andre Neblett has been suspended for four games for violating the NFL’s performance-enhancing drugs policy.
Neblett will be eligible to participate in all offseason practices and preseason games, but will not be able to make his appearance in the regular season until October 1st.
Will this affect the Panthers? Absolutely. Frankly, any loss of a defensive player right now makes us have to shift thinking and personnel around. In the 2012 draft, the Carolina Panthers did not draft a DT, because Ron Rivera felt comfortable with the skill set that we had on the team. Namely, in Neblett as #1.
Ron Edwards, Terrell McClain and Sione Fua are the other main DTs on our team (other DT roster players include Neblett, Frank Kearse, Jason Shirley, Ogemdi Nwagbuo, and Nate Chandler). Last year saw Ron Edwards on IR for the entirety of the season, and prior to this year he was with the Chief. McClain and Fua will have some large shoes to fill. Both of these fellas were thrown into the fire last year, with our injury-riddled defense, and both came out largely unscathed. Many of the shortcomings of these two could either be a) because they were unprepared, or b) due to the specific type of defense the DTs play under in Carolina, in which they are largely held to what the LBs are doing.
Camp and preseason will let us know what to expect at the position of DT this year. With Neblett out, it looks like we may have some issues that will bring back the lingering pain of 2011′s defense, at least at this position.