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Carolina Panthers

Marquan McCall fits right in along this defensive line

Marquan McCall

CHARLOTTE – Around this time a year ago, Marquan McCall was trying to make a name for himself on this roster as an undrafted rookie defensive lineman looking to capitalize on an opportunity.

Now, he's on the verge of a starting job with the first-team defense, playing along the defensive line with stalwart Derrick Brown and new Panther Shy Tuttle when they're in their base package.

And he appeared to be a smooth fit into defensive coordinator Ejiro Evero's new scheme here – even though he began his NFL career under a different regime here last year.

"It's definitely a blessing," McCall said during Monday's press conference. "But I try to tell myself to stay humble and just keep my head down and work like I was an undrafted rookie this year. That's my mindset."

McCall came to the Panthers in 2022 from Kentucky. He played in 16 games as a rookie, putting up 15 tackles, two tackles for loss, and one quarterback hit.

It's not really McCall's mindset to check out his numbers, he said. He focuses on how he can set his teammates up for success, plugging gaps to set up the guys behind him (inside linebackers, such as Shaq Thompson and "Uce" Frankie Luvu, he specifically mentioned) for the big plays.

"(I'm) just being a team player," McCall said. "I don't look for the tackles and everything like that. I just want to fill my gap and make sure Shaq and Uce or whoever's behind me makes the tackle."

At 345 pounds and 6-foot-3 inches tall, McCall is the heaviest on the Panthers' roster and figures to play a key role in Evero's 3-4 front.

Conventional wisdom would peg him as the true nose tackle stuffing the run, but Evero said back at Wofford that McCall had shown more versatility.

Besides Brown and Tuttle (or any combination of linemen), McCall can do more than simply defend run plays, Evero said.

"It's important to have a nose that can play the run game and play on the center," Evero said. "But all three of those interior guys have got to be not only great against the run, but we value position flexibility. We want guys who are not only just noses, but guys that have the ability to play end as well. I think Marquan can do that."

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He took advice from Brown throughout his first year, calling him a "beast" and saying he wanted to be "just like him."

Now McCall is giving advice to younger players on the roster, paying forward what he was given.

"It's crazy," McCall said. "A lot of guys come up and ask me, and I just try to give them what I've heard or what I've learned. I'm just hopeful that plants the seed in their head to get better."

McCall fits in just as well off the field as he does on it. Tuttle said McCall is a "jolly, good dude" who fits into the room.

"I've been saying this for years, but really, all D-linemen are the same," Tuttle said. "Rarely do you go into a room and the D-line isn't gelling, like we're all friends. Everywhere I've been, the D-line has always been like the closest group. We do everything together. We hang out. Like, it's just brotherhood."

McCall jovially took issue with the "jolly" descriptor, and said that when he's on the field, he transforms into "Bully," a longtime nickname more apt for a guy along the defensive front.

"Jolly is crazy," McCall said with a smile. "I do consider myself the hype guy, maybe the guy that brings all the energy or something. But I'm just trying to be a brother off the field, because you never know what people are going through in life. I just try to focus on being that somebody for them instead of a teammate. Then on the field, it's just a different me. That's just me."

View the best photos from the field, pre-game and post-game between the Panthers and Jets in Week 1 of the preseason.

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