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Defensive starters get their wish, to run it back with coaches

Ejiro Evero

CHARLOTTE — Derrick Brown was getting antsy. It had been several days since the Carolina Panthers hired a new head coach in Dave Canales. Technically, defensive coordinator Ejiro Evero was still under contract, but he had interviewed for head coaching jobs, and it's not uncommon for new hires to bring in coaches with whom they were familiar. Enough questions were surrounding Evero's future with the Panthers, that Brown had to check in himself.

"I called him (one) night to see what was going on myself because I wanted to know," Brown shared, while at the NFL Pro Bowl. "I hope he does come back and I hope that we get a chance to play this defense again," he said at the time.

Well Derrick, you got your wish.

The team announced last week that Evero will remain on staff, and Thursday, that his defensive staff would remain intact. Under Evero's coaching last season, Carolina finished as the fourth best defense in yards allowed per game (293.9). Furthermore, the secondary was third in passing defense, giving up an average of only 171.5 yards per game through the air.

"I'm excited," Brown said of the possibility Evero would return. "I'm excited. I want the same coaching staff again. This will be the first season where I've had the same coaches again."

Todd Wash

For Brown, it means not only the same DC, but the same position coach for a change.

"I went through, I think (five) coaches in four years (on the defensive line)," Brown pointed out. "So, I think if (Todd) Wash comes back, this will be a little bit of stability for me and allow me to be able to take the next step in my game and continue to grow without having to restart the process."

That stability is what other players on defense began asking for weeks ago, as the season was coming to a close and the writing was on the wall of coming change.

"I understand this is a business so a couple of guys will probably split ways," linebackerBrian Burns said late in the season, before going on to add, "I feel like that'd help anybody, just having some stability at some point."

Now that the coaching questions have been answered, the Panthers front office will move their attention to free agency. While most of the secondary is locked into place, there are decisions to be made on the horizon around Brown, Burns and others. With the coaching staff remaining much the same, Burns asks for the same mindset to be applied to the roster.

"Especially with the adversity that we faced this season, the core group of guys that is on this defense, you just can't separate it," Burns said in December. "We have been together for a while. The camaraderie is amazing. I feel like there is so much more we can tap into as a defense."

Go behind the scenes of Julius Peppers' experience at the NFL Honors weekend in Las Vegas, where he was named a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame's Class of 2024.

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