The Carolina Panthers won the Ejiro Evero sweepstakes this offseason, hiring the sought-after defensive coordinator to join Frank Reich's staff. The coup, however, comes with a big-time adjustment to the defense.
After running a 4-3 D for years, Carolina is switching to Evero's 3-4 base defense, which comes with a big transition for many players, particularly along the defensive line. Edge rushers who used to play defensive end are now asked to play outside linebacker, which adds different elements -- i.e., dropping into coverage more often.
Carolina will enter training camp with a question mark opposite Brian Burns at OLB as the club transitions to Evero's scheme.
It's a job Yetur Gross-Matos is angling to secure. However, after starting 17 games last season at DE, the fourth-year pro must make a dramatic position switch.
"My initial reaction was a breath of fresh air," Gross-Matos recently told the team's official website. "I'm excited about it; I know they're excited about it. We can talk about it all day because it's new for all of us. So (we) just try and learn as much as we can from each other's mistakes and what we do well."
A second-round pick in 2020, Gross-Matos has shown flashes through three seasons but has yet to hit the next level. He has 8.5 total sacks and 106 tackles in three seasons. In those three years, Gross-Matos has dropped into coverage just 24 times, per PFF, something he welcomes converting from DE to OLB.
"Before, I was playing D-line, but I was really taking on a lot of double-teams and just in the trenches," Gross-Matos said. "Now, I'm really able to use my athleticism more, running more, covering. We outside linebackers consider ourselves the alphas of the defense because we can do it all -- rush the quarterback, cover guys, look at formations. So it's a bigger responsibility. But, you know, I'm all about it. And it's been fun."
How Gross-Matos and other Panthers defenders transition to the new defense will be something to track when training camp kicks off later this month.