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Panthers DC admits 'there are going to be some growing pains'

Installing a new defense with a new team and an entirely different coaching staff can be a difficult task at any level of football.

Doing so at the NFL level while also not being able to complete any on-field instruction during the offseason is a bit more challenging. That's the scenario Panthers defensive coordinator Phil Snow faces in 2020, a year in which he's been forced to try to teach his group remotely and will be tasked with improving a defense that lost nine starters from 2019.

"Hey, there's really no excuses in this game and nobody wants to hear them -- and we don't give them," Snow said, via the Associated Press. "It would have been a better situation if we had been on the field the last two-and-a-half months obviously, but it is what it is."

The latter detail may be shocking, but statistically, it can't get much worse. Carolina's scoring defense finished 31st in the league last season, though it was slightly better in terms of yards allowed per game, finishing 23rd at 374.5 per contest. The difference, though, is Snow's group might face an even steeper climb after trading experience for youth in its current group.

Luke Kuechly is retired, Mario Addison is in Buffalo and Eric Reid is a free agent. Those three are just a third of what was lost. In their place are free-agent additions Tahir Whitehead, Juston Burris and Stephen Weatherly, and rookies Derrick Brown, Jeremy Chinn and Yetur Gross-Matos. It's a necessary bet on youth for the Panthers, who recognized their need to turn over their roster and work toward the future.

With such a shift comes a risk of unsatisfactory initial returns. But to Snow, who under Panthers head coach Matt Rhule helped turn around collegiate programs at Temple and Baylor, that's only temporary.

"There's no substitute for experience," Snow said. "The way we all learn is we get our butts kicked. In our business, that's how you learn. There are going to be some growing pains."

The Panthers hope those pains are only temporary. The only way to know if that's true is with the passage of time, which begins for this staff in September.

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