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Tuesday, November 12, 2013
Young stars play big role for Carolina D

By David Newton

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- You're going to hear a lot about the Carolina Panthers' second-ranked defense after Sunday's 10-9 victory over the San Francisco 49ers.

You're going to hear how the front seven is among the league's best, how they stop the run and pressure the quarterback without using a lot of fancy schemes or blitzes.

You're going to hear how statistically they rank in the top five -- and in many cases top two -- in most categories and they're a major reason for the team's five-game winning streak.

New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady, who will face this unit Monday night at Bank of America Stadium, is so impressed that he said Tuesday on a weekly radio show in the Boston area "we'll see what we're made of."

But what may be most impressive is the Panthers (6-3) are so effective with three to five rookies on the field at critical times. Two of them, in a few cases three, are undrafted.

I asked defensive coordinator Sean McDermott what he would have said had I presented him that scenario during training camp.

"I've already lost my hair," said McDermott, whose scalp is as smooth as a bowling ball.

Seriously, McDermott added, "That typifies what we're all about. We play great team defense and there's not one person that is more important than the other. They take a tremendous amount of pride that they're playing for each other."

In case you aren't familiar with these young stars, here's a quick look:
"It's a group of young guys that play fast," coach Ron Rivera said. "The things we do on the defensive side, in terms of keeping it familiar, has helped those guys."

And you're likely to hear about them for years to come.