The great thing about the NFL is that there are so many positions that every year, there is almost always at least one player who has a breakout year on every team, no matter how good or bad the team is. This is one part in a 32 part segment detailing one potential breakout player for the 2012 NFL season on each NFL team. For the Carolina Panthers, that player is defensive end Greg Hardy.
The Carolina Panthers ranked 25th in the league with 31 sacks last year, in large part because only Charles Johnson (10) had more than 4 sacks on the league. While that may be true, that doesn’t mean the Panthers don’t have another good pass rusher. Greg Hardy, the opposite defensive end and leader in snaps played on their defensive line, had a very good year rushing the passer, but was very unlucky to end up with just 4 sacks.
Hardy ranked 12th among 4-3 defensive ends in both quarterback hits (8) and quarterback pressures (33). With 4 sacks, 8 quarterback hits, and 33 quarterback pressures on 503 pass rush snaps, he had a pass rush rate of 8.9%, very solid. For reference, his teammate Charles Johnson had 10 sacks, 6 quarterback hits, and 32 quarterback pressures on 433 pass rush snaps, a rate of 11.1%.
Even if we use the weighted pass rush rate stat known as pass rushing efficiency (sacks * ¾ hits * ¾ pressures/pass rush snaps), Hardy’s rate was 7.5%, which ranked 12th among players who played a similar amount of snaps as him, right between Elvis Dumervil and Kyle Vanden Bosch, who had 12 sacks and 8 sacks respectively on 464 and 437 pass rushing snaps respectively. Hardy won’t necessarily need to improve as a player to break out as what’s commonly seen as a “better pass rusher.” However, heading into his 3rd year in the league as a 2010 6th round pick, Hardy could definitely improve as a player.
If you’re interested in doing a fantasy football league with me, here’s the link (no draft date set yet, currently standard, with the option to become PPR with group vote). http://msn.foxsports.com/fantasy/football/commissioner/Registration/Private.aspx?league=55086&password=FanSpot2