Next to drafting Cam Newton the most important off-season move by GM Marty Hurney was ensuring that Charles Johnson remained a Carolina Panther long term. During the 2010 season Johnson showed that he had turned the corner from ‘cusp of greatness’ and made the jump to just being great. A true three-down defensive end he has astounding ability both in rushing the passer, and in run support. Now, CJ is the most important member of the Carolina Panthers defense next to Jon Beason, yet he still has his critics.
Some are willing to point the finger at Big Money and say that his nickname was the reason for a drop in production; that perhaps the Panthers were duped by a defensive player in a contract year who was able to maximize his value in free agency. If you base your analysis on nothing more than rudimentary tackle and sack stats then you’d probably agree, but like most things the truth is far more complicated. Lets look further in CJ’s 2011 season…
After the jump
Season Team Tackles Interceptions Fumbles
G GS Comb Total Ast Sck SFTY PDef Int Yds Avg Lng TDs FF
2011 Carolina Panthers 15 15 40 30 10 9.0 — 4 — — 0.0 — — 1
2010 Carolina Panthers 16 16 62 51 11 11.5 — 1 — — 0.0 — — 1
These numbers put Johnson tied 14th in the NFL in sacks among 4-3 DEs, and 15th in tackles among 4-3 DEs. While these probably aren’t what fans were hoping for when he was signed to a giant contract a year ago, ultimately CJ had a lot more to contend with in 2010.
There was no pressure from the interior defense line, and as such Johnson was doubled on almost every down, and on occasion three blockers (help from an RB) were used to account for Big Money.
While his sack numbers wont wow the casual observer, his run stopping was impressive. The Panthers were 10th in the NFL in run stopping on plays run directly at Johnson, and 13th on plays run to his outside. The run stopping was woefully bad as a team, but as an individual he shone.
Week 8 vs. Minnesota: Johnson finished with 5 tackles and a sack against the Vikings
Week 7 vs. Washington: CJ made a key sack and FF that contributed to the win.
Week 13 vs. Tampa Bay: Three solo tackles were coupled with a sack and PDef in the Panthers big win.
2012 Contract Status
Here is where it gets a little tricky in knowing what the Panthers liability to CJ will be next season. His base salary will be $4.75 million, plus a portion of his signing bonus. We’ll have to wait and see how his signing bonus will be dolled out.
There is no player on the Panthers’ roster who relies more heavily on free agency and the draft than Charles Johnson. We are in desperate need to get pressure up the middle, and find someone to pair with him on the other side who can be a force on every down. A defensive end is a lot like a QB in a lot of ways, the quarterback can only be as good as his offensive line, and a DE can only play as well as the players next to him. When Johnson is one on one he’s near unstoppable, and he can get around of a lot double teams, but in 2011 too much was asked of him. The Carolina Panthers need to get better in order for him to play better.