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Keeping Ejiro Evero a "huge" part of offseason plan

Ejiro Evero

INDIANAPOLIS — Since Dan Morgan and Dave Canales have gotten their respective jobs, they've talked a lot about "alignment."

And the thing they absolutely agreed on this week was how glad they were to be able to retain defensive coordinator Ejiro Evero this offseason.

"It was huge," Canales said of being able to retain Evero, saying it was part of his "master plan" when he interviewed for the job.

"I really have high respect for him, Canales said. "It was a real selling point of mine is like, if we can just get this done, to have these two guys, this is a dream team of sorts, really to put these two young guys who are committed to their players, committed to these schemes.

"So I'm excited to go against them every day in practice and to see the evolution of the offense and defense as we face each other and kind of learn the ins and outs of what we're doing."

Canales can go into lengthy and granular detail when he's talking ball, and went on for nearly two minutes when asked about the things that stood out to him about the Panthers' defense in 2023.

Noting players such as Derrick Brown and Brian Burns, he pivoted to the coaching that had the Panthers fourth in the league in total defense while playing alongside the league's worst offense.

Canales has felt this way for years (when he was in Seattle, he saw this style often against the Rams) and pointed to specific adjustments the Panthers made on defense in the regular season finale. The Bucs were driving just before the end of the half, but they changed things up after a timeout and "crushed our play," forcing them to settle for a field goal.

But beyond the scheme, Canales said he was impressed with the way the Panthers learned to communicate on the fly last year. Pairing veteran safeties Xavier Woods and Vonn Bell (who didn't have a background in the system), and having to adjust to the loss of signal-caller Shaq Thompson in September forced many players to adjust, including Frankie Luvu, a seek-and-destroy type linebacker who was forced to play in a more defined role inside.

Ejiro Evero, Kamu Grugier-Hill

"Those type of things are what I saw from the Panthers defense and the way that they got those guys to communicate in short order," Canales said. "So, yeah, I know that's a lot, but there's a lot that I appreciated about his defense, and they played us really hard twice last year. So it was a real challenge."

The ability to communicate was also cited by Morgan, who said having some degree of consistency in the coaching staff was a benefit as he entered his first year as GM, allowing him to have a clearer picture of what the team needed in free agency and the draft.

"I mean, it helps a lot," Morgan said. "Last year, I think we thought we had an idea, but then going through a full season, you can really understand what they want from a player perspective, not only the physical attributes but the smarts; they need smart players on their defense.

"We do a lot of different disguises. We run a lot of different coverages and do a lot of post-snap eye candy. I got a lot better understanding last year."

Check out photos from the Lowe's NFL Experience, where Panthers quarterback Bryce Young and Panthers Legend Luke Kuechly interacted with fans, tossed some footballs and even made pancakes.

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