Panthers mailbag: Can Hardy get 50 sacks?

June, 30, 2014
6/30/14
8:00
AM ET
I'm back from vacation, sunburned and peeling. Time to catch up on your Carolina Panthers questions:

@DNewtonESPN: Funny. While defensive tackles Star Lotulelei and Kawann Short should be improved in their second season, defensive end Greg Hardy wouldn't come close to 50 sacks in a season if he had Hall of Famers Alan Page and "Mean" Joe Greene playing inside. He might have less than the 15 he had last season since those two got to the quarterback quite a bit during their prime. I imagine Lotulelei and Short might have a sack or two more this season as well, which would steal from opportunities. What's interesting about Hardy is most of his 2013 sacks came in bunches. He got 10 of his 15 in three games, including four in the finale against Atlanta. While nobody is complaining, the Panthers probably would be just as happy with him having 15 sacks spread out more evenly with others getting to the quarterback more. I will say this, Hardy will be hungrier than ever. He'll be playing for a new contract with the franchise tag on him this season. He'll also be playing to make people to forget the domestic violence charges pending against him. But since the NFL record for sacks in a season is 22.5 (Michael Strahan, 2001), expecting Hardy to get anywhere near 50 is as farfetched as Hardy saying he will get them.

@DNewtonESPN: Pretty sure Ryan Kalil will start at center (sarcasm here). As for the rest of the offensive line, I'm going with Nate Chandler at left tackle, Byron Bell at right tackle, Amini Silatolu at left guard and Trai Turner at right guard. Or, it could be Bell at left tackle and Chandler at right. As for the secondary, the safeties will be Thomas DeCoud and Roman Harper. Predicting the starting corners isn't as easy. Much depends on whether Charles Godfrey has completely healed from the Achilles injury and can make the transition from safety back to corner. Leaving organized team activities, I would say Melvin White and Antoine Cason will be the corners, but Godfrey and maybe even Josh Norman could make it interesting.

@DNewtonESPN: No. It's too much money for a team trying to get salary cap healthy, and the Panthers seriously like what they have at wide receiver. It also doesn't make sense for the Texans to trade him, either.

@DNewtonESPN: Good question. The Panthers were high on fourth-round pick Edmund Kugbila a year ago before he struggled with knee and hamstring issues in camp. He's still not showing the flashes the team had hoped, so right now it becomes a numbers game. Amini Silatolu appears ready to reclaim the left guard spot after missing most of last season with a knee injury. Carolina likes rookie Trai Turner at right guard and Chris Scott -- if he can stay in good shape -- has experience as a starter. Garry Williams also has experience at guard, so if he doesn't win one of the tackle spots he could be a flex player as a backup. I still believe Kugbila will make the cut. General manager Dave Gettleman likes his hog mollies, and at 6-4, 325 Kubgila is a big one.

@DNewtonESPN: I'm not sure about expanding the playbook, but it will be somewhat different in terms of Carolina's plans to run more two tight-end sets. Depending on whether Brandon Williams makes the roster, as I'm predicting he will, there will be three legitimate receiving threats there between Greg Olsen, Ed Dickson and Williams. With Steve Smith gone at wide receiver, that also opens the door for more receivers to be rotated in and out since Smith never left the field unless he was injured. You'll also continue to see a good rotation at running back between DeAngelo Williams, Mike Tolbert, a healthy Jonathan Stewart and now Kenjon Barner. If by expand you mean offensive coordinator Mike Shula will open things up more, I wouldn't count on that. The Panthers still want to run a ball control offense. But in terms of using more players, I definitely see that. 

David Newton | email

ESPN Carolina Panthers reporter

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