CHARLOTTE – How do you disrupt passing attacks that are getting the ball out faster than ever?
According to Panthers defensive coordinator Sean McDermott, you throw fastballs right back.
"Being able to always throw fastballs at the quarterback or offensive line is important," McDermott said.
The Panthers are poised to bring the heat this season with the additions of rookie defensive tackles Star Lotulelei and Kawann Short, who recently completed the team's three-day rookie minicamp at Bank of America Stadium.
"We're tremendously excited about Star and Kawann. Both have the potential to be dynamic players. But having said that, they have a long way to go," McDermott said.
"The important thing after the weekend we just had is, are we seeing the things we thought we saw on tape in college? Do they have a chance going forward? The answer to that at this point is yes."
Lotulelei and Short will be expected to contribute significantly as individuals in 2013. But McDermott's "fastball" reference speaks more to the defensive tackle rotation the pair of rookies will be a part of.
The Panthers want their defensive tackles fresh. They want to constantly rotate able bodies in the trenches. That way, in theory, McDermott won't have to throw any off-speed pitches, also known as winded pass-rushers.
McDermott also likes the matchup problems Lotulelei and Short will help create for opposing offenses.
Dealing with defensive ends Charles Johnson and Greg Hardy was hard enough for offenses last season, as the two combined for 23.5 sacks. Lotulelei and Short plan on making it even more challenging for protections.
"I mean, where do you start? Do you want to double Charles or double Greg? Then you are going to be singled on the inside tackles," McDermott said. "A lot of people are building pressure inside out. The key to getting to certain quarterbacks is through the guards now."
"It's a game of matchups," McDermott added. "And when you say matchups, people usually think of wide receivers against defensive backs or a tight end against a linebacker. Very rarely do people think about the matchups inside."
But that's exactly what the Panthers were thinking about when they selected Lotulelei and Short with their first two picks in the 2013 draft.
And McDermott is focused on making the Panthers' relentless pass-rushing vision a reality when the season begins.
"Saying it is one thing; doing it is another," McDermott said. "We've got to walk the walk. We have two young players inside that have to develop, and that's a major responsibility to play inside. These are young players that have a long way to go before they can help us, but we are counting on them to contribute."