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Thomas Davis: McDermott will greatly improve Bills' D

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ORLANDO, Fla. -- After a down season in Carolina, veteran linebacker Thomas Davis watched the team lose another one of its best weapons. This time, it was defensive coordinator Sean McDermott, who was hired as the new head coach of the Buffalo Bills.

"I hated to see him go," Davis said Thursday after NFC team practice. "Knowing how hard he works and knowing what he's meant for our defenses, I couldn't be happier for him.

"I expect (the Bills defense) to be phenomenal. His coaching style, his aggressiveness. When you look at the caliber of athlete they have on that defense, they are going to be really good."

Davis, who is 33 and signed for at least one more year, has played all 11 seasons in Carolina. The discrepancy between 2015's starlit run to the Super Bowl and this past season was stark. With McDermott gone, all eyes in the locker room will inevitably swing in his direction for guidance.

He sees Carolina as the same team that made the Super Bowl a year ago. As only someone who spent that much time in Carolina could, Davis seems protective of the Panthers' reputation and doesn't want them to be remembered for what happened in 2016.

"We really didn't play up to our potential as a football team," Davis said. "We know it. Everyone else around us knows it. But it's all about getting back to it. If you consistently don't play well, people might start thinking 'well that's just who you are.' But we don't want that to become our football team.

"We understand that this season was a disappointment but we have to get back out there."

It's easy to point at various benchmarks throughout Carolina's season and dissect where it went wrong. The team rescinded Josh Norman's franchise tag on April 20 and opted to replace him with a handful of rookies. Cam Newton was battered in a season-opening loss to the Broncos, which set off a chain of injuries and issues that followed the quarterback all season long.

Luke Kuechly missed time due to a concussion for the second season in a row -- he was limited to just 10 games in 2016.

But Davis saw Carolina's breakdown as more of an on-field issue.

"When I look back on the season and see what it really came down to and why we missed the playoffs, we lost six or seven games in the fourth quarter. It's not like we're going into these games and getting blown out. In this league you have to finish and if you don't finish you don't win."

His optimism for next season extends to Newton, who, as we've seen in the past, can lift the team from pedestrian to nearly unbeatable if he's playing well.

"He was the MVP of the league last year," Davis said. "We know what kind of player he can be. He dealt with a lot of stuff this year from being banged up to having a sore shoulder. But we expect him to bounce back in a major way."

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