SPARTANBURG, S.C. – It's a simple and regularly used classification: defensive tackles Star Lotulelei and Kawann Short are the youngsters oozing with talent; Dwan Edwards and Colin Cole are the cagey veterans helping them along.
That young-and-old classification is accurate. But it doesn't tell the whole story.
"Young and young, you mean?" Cole said with a smile.
"I'm old now," Edwards said. "At least that's what they tell me."
What's made Edwards, 33, and Cole, 34, so valuable to Carolina's defensive success is the fact they haven't simply made way for the first- and second-round draft picks from a year ago.
They've continued to push themselves.
"I am judged on what I do on the field, and as far as I know, my age isn't playing a factor," Cole said. "I like to believe that I have the ability to get out on the edge and make plays. I adapted to the scheme. I think I bring a lot to the table. I'm going to continue to prove that."
Head coach Ron Rivera has often called Cole, who started 13 games in first season with Carolina last year, a space-eater.
Cole has another nickname in mind.
"Not necessarily space-eater as much as middle-monster," he said.
Edwards' comments to the media weren't as colorful as his fellow defensive tackle's, but he, too, is confident he can and will be a difference-maker.
"Hopefully, I'll be in there in those critical situations when we need something to happen," said Edwards, who has nine sacks in two seasons for the Panthers. "I look forward to being ready for those roles when the time comes."
Both agree that the four-man defensive tackle rotation is beneficial for all involved.
"I can't play 60-70 snaps a game for a full season. It's nice to be able to rotate and stay fresh," Edwards said.
Added Cole: "We pride ourselves on the next man being up and being ready to play. We all have our own unique styles and abilities that we bring to the defense. We mesh very well."
Expectations are understandably sky-high for the defensive line. Cole went so far as to say the Panthers – who led the league with 60 sacks last year – should shoot for the NFL single-season sack record of 72 set by the Chicago Bears in 1984.
"That's where our goal is," Cole said.
Who can blame him for thinking big?
"We are so deep, especially inside," Edwards said. "If we can keep guys fresh we'll be at a huge advantage throughout the game.
"You just start thinking about how good we can be with another year under our belt and the same guys. Our young guys are a year better and more experienced. You start thinking we could really be a dominant force."