Max Henson Staff Writer
CHARLOTTE — The Panthers defensive line has set the tone for the defense and been a disruptive force throughout the season.
Carolina ranks 13th in the NFL with 27 sacks, and is the only team to get all of its sacks from defensive linemen.
“Early in the season, we may have been looked at as a poor part of our team,” defensive tackle Dwan Edwards said. “It’s developed into a strength. We take a lot of pride in that.”
With starting defensive tackle Ron Edwards out for the season, that strength will be tested.
“No doubt about it, Ron’s been a big part of our success this year,” fellow-starter Dwan Edwards said. “Guys have to step up, that’s the nature of the business. We’ve got some young guys that are working real hard and willing to accept the opportunity.”
Fua – who started 11 games as a rookie last year before being placed on injured reserve – is in line for his first start of the 2012 season.
“Fua will get an opportunity to be the first guy up,” head coach Ron Rivera said.
Rivera added that defensive end Greg Hardy may also factor into the defensive tackle rotation.
“Keep an eye out for No. 76. He’s done it sometimes for us, especially in pass situations,” Rivera said. “He’s a big, athletic body that poses some problems in there for guys. If you get him (isolated) on a center he can have some success.
CONTAINING CHARLES: The D-line’s first challenge without Ron Edwards comes against the league’s fourth-ranked rushing attack (145.6 yards per game), led by one of the most explosive players in the NFL — Kansas City running back Jamaal Charles.
“There are a couple plays that we have to make sure we can stop and can handle,” Rivera said. “If you can’t control their best runs or what you think his best runs are, they can be off to the races.”
Shutting down outside stretch plays will be one of the Panthers’ primary objectives.
“The main thing is just setting edges and not letting (Charles) get outside,” Dwan Edwards said, “because that’s where he’s real dangerous.”
After Eagles rookie running back Bryce Brown ran for 178 yards against Carolina on Monday night and with Edwards on injured reserve, the Panthers fully expect the Chiefs to test their ability to stop the run early and often.
“The Eagles, they were able to gash us a little bit and have some success running the ball. We have to clean up what we did wrong and be better this week,” Fua said. “(The Chiefs) have running backs that can expose us if we’re not on top of our game. We have to swarm to the ball and tackle well.”
NIXSON ADDED: The Panthers signed rookie cornerback Nick Hixson to the practice squad, filling the spot previously held by Kearse.
“We wanted to bring in another corner to take some of the reps off Josh Thomas and Josh Norman in terms of practice,” Rivera said. “He’s a very fast, quick, football player. He caught our pro scouts’ eye.”
Nixson spent the first nine weeks of the season on the New Orleans Saints practice squad. He attended Hillsdale College where he was a two-time Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference Selection.