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Captain Munnerlyn: Panthers can be NFL's top defense

When Around The League's "32 in 32" series set its sights on the Carolina Panthers, we acknowledged that Ron Rivera's defense had a chance to improve on its 10th overall ranking from a season ago.

The thinking goes like this: The Panthers' talented front seven will have enough manpower to mask what might be the league's worst secondary. Then there's cornerback Captain Munnerlyn, who sees no weakness at all.

"Nobody (is) really giving us a chance in the secondary, you know, to be great, or having any talent in the secondary. For me, being a leader in the secondary, it's my opportunity to step up and be that guy," Munnerlyn told WFNZ-AM on Tuesday. "... It's going to be scary how good (this team) can be. And I'm excited about this year. I feel like we can be the top defense in (the NFL)."

Munnerlyn pointed to the return of linebacker Jon Beason, the ascendant play of edge rusher Greg Hardy and the drafting of big uglies Star Lotulelei and Kawann Short. Solid arguments for improved results, but the back of this defense -- where Charles Godfrey and the unproven Haruki Nakamura are penciled in at safety -- could cancel this party before it begins.

That 10th overall ranking is based on yardage allowed per game. ProFootballFocus charted the Panthers as the 28th overall unit, sunk by a disastrous run defense and below average pass coverage. Bolstering the front four with youth will help, and there's reason for hope, but make no mistake: This remains a work in progress.

Follow Marc Sessler on Twitter @MarcSesslerNFL.

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