Mario Addison: Snub of Panthers' D-line 'a slap in the face'

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Carolina Panthers defensive end Mario Addison is angry, confused and insulted.

You name it, the 30-year-old felt it when NFL.com recently named the league's top eight defensive lines for 2018 and didn't mention the Panthers.

To further Addison's dismay, the Panthers weren't among the four teams that just missed the list.

"For them to say we're not even in the top 10 or top eight, it's a slap in the face," Addison said following Tuesday's mandatory minicamp. "Our numbers speak for themselves. I don't know what they have against Carolina, but our numbers speak for themselves.

"What else do you want a D-line to do?"

Addison makes a good point. Though rankings are subjective, particularly at this time of the year, the Panthers consistently have had one of the best defensive lines in the NFL over the past six years, and the 2017 season was no exception.

Carolina ranked third in the NFL with 50 sacks last season, and 40 came from players who played on the defensive line, led by Addison and future Hall of Famer Julius Peppers with 11 each. Only the Jacksonville Jaguars had more from their line with 48.5.

Addison and Peppers were among the top end combinations in total sacks with 22.

The Panthers ranked sixth in the NFL with 246 pressures from their front four, and were led by Pro Bowl defensive tackle Kawann Short with 47. Only Aaron Donald and Geno Atkins had more pressures among interior linemen.

Carolina also ranked 11th defensively in yards per rush and seventh in yards before contact per rush last season. Fifty percent of the runs against the Panthers went for 2 yards or less, which ranked as sixth best in the league.

The only offseason loss among the defensive front was tackle Star Lotulelei, who had 25 tackles and 1.5 sacks last season. He was replaced with free agent Dontari Poe, who had 39 tackles and 2.5 sacks for Atlanta last season.

So at worst, the loss of Lotulelei and addition of Poe is a wash. Poe arguably is a better pass-rusher with 15.5 sacks the past five years, compared with 11.5 for Lotulelei.

"It's a joke," Addison said of the rankings.

Panthers coach Ron Rivera won't get wrapped up in preseason rankings, but you can bet he'll use this one for motivation.

"I can't control how people judge or decide or look at things," he said. "We'll let the numbers speak for themselves. You have two double-digit sack guys. That's pretty impressive."

Rivera won't need to use the rankings to motivate Addison. He's already motivated plenty.

"Ah, man!" he said. "It adds so much fuel [to my fire], man. For me it makes me go even harder. Last year I had 11 sacks and wasn't all the way healthy."

Addison played four games with a hyperextended knee suffered in a Week 4 win at New England. He still had 3.5 sacks while the knee healed, leading him to believe an even better season is ahead if he can stay healthy.

His 33 sacks over the past four seasons are only 1.5 fewer than those of Jacksonville's Calais Campbell, who led all defensive ends in sacks a year ago with 14.5.

"I want this to be the best season I ever had," Addison said.

Having Peppers, 38, back only makes Addison more confident that Carolina's front four can dominate. Peppers also should be at full strength after having offseason surgery to repair a partially torn labrum.

Peppers needs 5.5 sacks to catch Kevin Greene (160) for third on the NFL's all-time sack list. Addison has no doubt the 6-foot-7, 295-pound player entering his 17th season will get that.

"He's coming," Addison said. "He's got a lot of gas left."

Jacksonville topped NFL.com's rankings, not only because of a starting four led by Campbell and Malik Jackson but also overall depth. The Jaguars were followed by Philadelphia, the Los Angeles Rams, Minnesota Vikings, Los Angeles Chargers, Houston Texans and Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

Green Bay, Pittsburgh, Oakland and Tennessee made the "just missed" list.

That NFC South rival Tampa Bay made the list instead of Carolina might be most confusing for Addison. The Buccaneers ranked last in the NFL in total defense and last in sacks (22) a year ago.

Adding two proven pass-rushers -- free agents Jason Pierre-Paul and Vinny Curry -- was a substantial upgrade to the Bucs' front line, but they still have to come together as a unit.

Carolina has proven over time to have one of the league's best defenses -- ranking in the top 10 five of the past six years -- and the line has been a big reason for that.

That's why Addison is angry and confused.

And now even more motivated.

"We can't worry about what they think about us," Addison said. "That's when you mess up. We've got to continue to do what we've been doing and let that speak for itself."