Panthers could eventually switch to 3-4 defense

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- The Carolina Panthers are thinking about changing how they line up on defense.

The Panthers showed a new wrinkle on Sunday against the Atlanta Falcons, lining up in a 3-4 defense for the first time under new coach Ron Rivera. It was only for three plays, but the 3-4 look could become a more permanent Carolina fixture down the road.

It wouldn't be a surprise. Rivera ran the 3-4 last year working as the defensive coordinator for the San Diego Chargers and that unit finished first in the league in total defense.

The Panthers used Ron Fields at nose tackle sandwiched in between ends Terrell McClain and Greg Hardy. Dan Connor and James Anderson were the middle linebackers, allowing Charles Johnson and Antwan Applewhite to stand up at outside linebacker.

Applewhite, who was brought in two weeks ago because of the flexibility he offers, played outside linebacker last year for Rivera in San Diego, but he's one of the few Carolina defenders who have played that style.

Panthers defensive coordinator Sean McDermott said it's too early to know if he'll use the 3-4 scheme next season, noting that might include some personnel changes to better fit the defense.

"We have to see how comfortable the players are and also you look at your opponents in the division and outside of the division," McDermott said.

However, McDermott made it clear the Panthers would like to move toward becoming a full-time 3-4 defense.

"Ron and I have gotten together on it over the summer and it's something we wanted to evolve to, so we're going to have that in the game plan (this year) whether we use it or not," McDermott said.

Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press

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