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Haason Reddick sees "respect" for Panthers defense

Haason Reddick

CHARLOTTE — Panthers outside linebacker Haason Reddick looks around him, and he sees the talent.

And he also sees what opponents are trying to do to them at the moment.

Their potent pass-rush has been dampened a bit in recent weeks by teams that scheme away from it, teams that throw quick passes, to play against their strength. While that could easily be taken as an insult, it's almost a point of pride for Reddick.

"It's something that's hard to adjust to," Reddick admitted. "As it continually happens to us, week in and week out, I look at it as a sign of respect, honestly, knowing they don't have the matchup or guys that can stop us from getting to the quarterback in true drop-back situations.

"If this is what teams have to do to negate us, or stop us from making plays, I take it as a sign of respect."

Haason Reddick

The Panthers are in the league's top-10 in pressure, with 32 sacks this year. Reddick has 10.5 of those, but just the one against Washington over the last three weeks. He said he tries to stay as calm as he can, knowing that there's only so much he can control. "It's part of the game," he said. "If I allow myself to get frustrated based on what's happening in the game, it could linger, I could start having bad plays, it could negatively affect my game, and I try to make sure that doesn't happen.

"So I try to keep myself as calm as I can, and keep thinking about the next play, next play. And just keep going."

He also tries to think about the long game.

Though he's a free agent at the end of the season (for the record, he said he'd love to stay), the Panthers have a number of young players on that side of the ball to build around. He mentioned Brian Burns and Jeremy Chinn and Derrick Brown in particular, and said he wants to keep some perspective.

Asked what frustrated him about the team's current 5-8 record, he replied: "To know how much talent we have, and to know we're not getting the outcomes we want."

"Knowing these kinds of guys on the roster, so young and so talented in a couple of years when they hit their prime, and have that full confidence, and experience in the NFL, I know the sky can be the limit," he said. "It's rough right now. but when we overcome that hump and everything's looking good, it'll all be worth it."

The Panthers are definitely on the wrong side of the hump at the moment.

The statistics will tell you that the Panthers are still very good on defense. But the way they've played the last three weeks makes it harder to justify some of those numbers.

Panthers head coach Matt Rhule was asked about the team's struggles on defense during the recent three-game losing streak, and he mentioned some of the particulars such as third-down defense, and their inability to keep teams from running.

"If we've lost three in a row, that's how we're playing," Rhule said.

For the season, the Panthers still rank second in the NFL in yards allowed (293.0 per game), the "total defense" stat that's the easiest to point to and to comprehend. They're also eighth in the league in third-down percentage allowed (36.4 percent).

The numbers aren't as complimentary in rush defense, where they're 20th in the league (115.3 per game).

But the 13-game numbers cover up some of the recent trends.

In the last three losses, the Panthers have allowed opponents to gain 334.0 total yards per game — a number that would rank ninth in the league right now.

The 143.0 rushing yards per game allowed over the last three would rank 31st

And the 46.3 percent of third-down conversions allowed — a full 10 points worse than their season average — would rank 29th.

And those trends are coming at a time when they're playing one of the league's top offenses in Buffalo.

The Bills are a top-10 offense in most categories, even if they're not built to run the ball as often as some teams the Panthers have played.

But they also know that their recent results invite teams to follow a familiar script.

"They'll run the ball; we believe they'll run the ball," Chinn said when asked about the Bills. "I believe that's probably everybody's game plan to run the ball."

The Panthers have invited that, and are trying to get back to the team that built up the statistical case that they're capable of being good.

View photos from Carolina's practice on Wednesday as they prepare to travel to Buffalo.

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