Why Kawann Short is ready to have a break out season in 2014 for the Panthers

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We continue our series looking at how Carolina Panthers’ rookies from 2013 performed and what we should expect looking forward. Last week, it was first round defensive tackle Star Lotulelei. Now we move on to second round pick and Lotulelei’s partner on the defensive line, defensive tackle Kawann Short.

2013 Stats: 30 tackles, 1.5 sacks, 1 forced fumble, 1 recovery, 24 QB pressures

2013 Review: Kawann Short didn’t technically “start” any games for the Carolina Panthers, but he played 529 snaps, which are a little less than full time starting snaps. Basically, he played plenty, and the results were very good. Playing primarily at the 3-technique pass rushing tackle spot, Short recorded 30 tackles, and 1.5 sacks. In talking to a few Panthers fans, some were surprised he recorded less sacks than his more run-oriented teammate Star Lotulelei. However, Star played more snaps and was a less productive pass rusher. In less snaps, Short actually recorded more than twice as many QB pressures as Lotulelei. As lame an excuse as this may sound, Short really just got unlucky a lot last year. With quarterbacks being more efficient at getting rid of the ball or running out of the pocket, the standard expectation for linemen is that they will record a sack every four pressures. Using this measurement, Short pressured the opposing quarterback to the equivalent of a player who normally would record six sacks.

What he needs to work on: Short didn’t show any major lapses in run support, which for a rookie 3-technique tackle is pretty impressive. The main thing he needs to work on is closing on the QB. Some players try to overset when they get close to the quarterback, and give quarterbacks that extra half second to fling the ball away. Again, he was unlucky a lot, but this definitely contributed to Short’s miniscule sack amount in comparison to his pressure rate. Working on just attacking the ball instead of worrying about a scramble can’t hurt. Let’s face it, when you’re 6’3”, 310 pounds you don’t need perfect technique to bring down a relatively stationary quarterback. Short also couldn’t hurt himself by adding a little bit of strength to try and mimic Star’s bull rushing style to add this his pass rushing repertoire, and he needs to work on trusting his eyes and attacking. There were a few times last year where he would hesitate too much on the play action and he would miss out on making a play. With his pressure rate in a non-starting role last year, I would expect a huge jump in his production as a sophomore in the league, even with teams starting to game plan for him. In fact, Kawann Short is my biggest breakout candidate for the 2014 season.

2014 Prediction: 46 tackles, 7.5 sacks, 31 quarterback pressures

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