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Tuesday, December 6, 2011
Defensive tackles keep falling for Panthers

By Pat Yasinskas
ESPN.com

Just when it didn’t seem like things could get any worse for the Carolina Panthers’ defense, they have.

Rookie starting defensive tackles Terrell McClain and Sione Fua reportedly will be placed on injured reserve. That would leave Andre Neblett and Frank Kearse as the only defensive tackles on the roster. Update: The Panthers just officially announced McClain and Fua have been placed on injured reserve.

To replace them on the roster, the Panthers have signed Ogemdi Nwagbuo as a free agent and promoted Jason Shirley from the practice squad. The Panthers also added defensive tackle Demario Pressley to the practice squad.

Defensive tackle was a problem spot for the Panthers even in the last years of coach John Fox’s regime. When Ron Rivera took over, the Panthers tried to solidify things in the middle of their defensive line.

Besides drafting McClain and Fua, the Panthers made one of their biggest free-agency moves by signing Ron Edwards. The former Kansas City player was supposed to instantly become the anchor of the interior line and the plan was to let McClain and Fua grow up alongside Edwards.

But that plan went awry in training camp, when Edwards suffered a season-ending injury. The Panthers have gone through a bunch of defensive tackles in the meantime.

The only bright side to all this is Fua and McClain got experience this year. Bring them back healthy next year and put them next to a healthy Edwards and the Panthers might be all right at defensive tackle for the first time in a long time.