It’s Championship Sunday and we’re in for a couple of classic matchups. First, Aaron Rodgers and the Packers host Tom Brady and the Buccaneers in the NFC title game. That will be followed by Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs facing the upstart Bills in the AFC Championship.
There’s not many things more fun than watching the NFL playoffs. Actually participating in them has to be a rush on an entirely different level, though. While the Panthers finished their season 5-11, some of their youngest and most important defensive players have spent the weekend setting their sights on competing in the postseason.
On Saturday, hybrid DB/LB Jeremy Chinn tweeted that he just wants to play in January and February.
just wanna play in Jan/Feb.. 😓
— Jeremy Chinn (@ChinnJeremy2) January 23, 2021
This morning, defensive tackle Derrick Brown replied with a promise that it will come very soon.
These are two foundational pieces for a defense that improved a lot down the stretch of the regular season. At their best, the unit stifled the likely 2020 league MVP in Rodgers, holding him to just 143 passing yards and under five per attempt. Brown’s pressure up front (he had two sacks) was a huge factor in that breakout performance.
While there were coverage issues peppered throughout, Chinn played at a high level for a rookie. He was inevitably overtaken by Chase Young in the Defensive Rookie of the Year race, but Chinn is clearly going to be an impact playmaker as long as he’s healthy.
In-between these two picks, the Panthers added another defender who also looks to have a high ceiling. Defensive end Yetur Gross-Matos missed four games due to injuries but flashed enough to be nothing but bullish about his future. He finished with 2.5 sacks, nine quarterback hits and 11 pressures.
These three rookies plus defensive end Brian Burns and cornerback Donte Jackson represent the young nucleus of this defense. If general manager Scott Fitterer can find the right pieces to add around them, then Brown’s “very soon” prediction will prove correct.
Scott Fitterer won’t comment on Teddy Bridgewater, other Panthers players