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Saints face new-look Panthers defense

Posted Sep 13, 2012

When the Saints offense squares off against the Panthers' defense, they'll see a healthier, revamped unit.

"They have some new faces," Saints interim head coach Aaron Kromer said in a conference call. "Luke (Kuechly) playing the WILL linebacker and Jon Beason coming in as well. He is an extremely good player. 

"I'm just saying that they are a lot healthier since when we played them last.  Obviously, they are a force to be reckoned with."

Beason, fellow linebacker Thomas Davis and defensive tackle Ron Edwards didn't get a chance to play against the Saints last year due to injuries.

Additionally, the Panthers feature two rookie starters in Kuechly and cornerback Josh Norman to go along with two free agent signings who have earned starting roles in defensive tackle Dwan Edwards and safety Haruki Nakamura.

The new-look Panthers rank second in the NFL in pass defense after giving up just 128 yards against Tampa Bay in Week 1. With the Saints coming to town, they'll face an offense that led the league in passing a season ago – a unit that posted 326 passing yards in their 2012 opener.

New Orleans quarterback Drew Brees offered his assessment of the Panthers' defensive makeup in a conference call.

"They've got some really good young pass rushers in (Greg) Hardy and (Charles) Johnson and the internal guys seem like they are stout," Brees said. "Their linebackers – (James) Anderson and Davis and Beason have been there a long time together, and Kuechly is a guy who flies around and makes a ton of plays. Their front seven is an impressive group.

"They have two new guys in the secondary, but (Chris) Gamble at corner and (Charles) Godfrey at safety -- it seems like we have been playing against those guys forever."

For these NFC South division rivals, there's a mix of familiarity and an element of unknown with a Week 2 matchup.

"With any divisional opponent there is a level of familiarity but I think when you play someone early in the season there are some things that are different," Brees said. "We are both still trying to establish ourselves."

And both teams are eager to rebound from a season-opening loss.

"It's a big win for either team," Kromer said. "Obviously, you never want to be 0-2.  But there are 16 games.  The New York Giants were 9-7.  They won the Super Bowl last year.  So were not going to panic and we're not going to think we're great even if we do happen to win the game.  One way or another we just need to move on to the next week."