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Panthers DC Ejiro Evero already likes what he sees from revamped defense

Carolina's operation was subpar in 2023, but their defensive coordinator Ejiro Evero remains -- and he likes what he's seeing in 2024.

It helps that a number of players with past ties to Evero are now in Charlotte: Linebacker Josey Jewell once peaked under Evero in Denver, while a couple of experienced Rams transplants (defensive lineman A'Shawn Robinson and safety Jordan Fuller) have made the move east. Add in Jadeveon Clowney, Dane Jackson and D.J. Wonnum, and the Panthers will roll out a new-look defense filled with players who made impacts elsewhere.

That type of turnover could elicit much-needed improvements. So far, Evero is sensing a culture shift that could produce a jump this fall.

"The one thing I will say is that I'm really, really, really excited about the group of guys that we have right now," Evero said Thursday, via the team's official site. "These first four days have just been really exciting and we know that we've got a lot of good football players, talented football players, but also just the football dialogue.

"I feel like the football dialogue that we have right now is at such a high level from all the different position rooms when we get together collectively, so it's exciting for me."

Oftentimes, swapping out past members of a struggling unit for role players who found important fits with better clubs ends up being a wise set of moves. Carolina wasn't necessarily in need of major change, though, considering Evero oversaw a group that finished fourth in total defense -- but 29th in scoring defense.

These moves were more about experience gained under Evero in better environments -- and the hope they'll instill a stronger culture in Carolina.

"I wouldn't say better equipped, but I feel so much better about our starting point compared to last year," Evero said. "Just with the experience and knowledge and foundation of the system. Every player that we have has been in, most of the players that we've had have been in some version of our system with the same dialogue and language and communication skills.

"And so from that standpoint, we are a lot further ahead than we were this time last year."

It's fair to question whether Evero is just basking in the glow of an active offseason. After all, the Panthers did lose two of their best defenders this spring, trading Brian Burns to New York and watching the eternally underrated Frankie Luvu bail for Washington. They also lost C.J. Henderson, Vonn Bell and Donte Jackson from a secondary that finished with a top-three ranking against the pass.

Then again, opposing offenses didn't need to throw all that much while enjoying plenty of success on the ground against the Panthers 23rd-ranked run defense. And that's where Evero sees the most potential for improvement.

"Big difference, big difference. When you think about A'Shawn and Derrick (Brown, who signed a lucrative extension after a breakout 2023) and Shy (Tuttle), it doesn't get any bigger than that," Evero said. "In terms of having a big front, guys that are physical, could play the run games, guys that are very, very intelligent, and understand angles and blocking schemes and things of that nature.

"And so yeah, we are excited about where our run defense could go this year."

It will start up front for the Panthers on both sides of the ball. But while the offense attempts to climb out of its dreadful dead-last ranking it posted in 2023, it will be up to Evero to ensure his group does its job -- and perhaps more -- to keep Carolina competitive.

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