<
>

Injured starters on Panthers defensive front give others opportunities

With Charles Johnson out, Wes Horton, right, has a chance to show what he can do on the left side of the Panthers' defensive line. AP Photo/Mike McCarn

SPARTANBURG, S.C. -- Carolina Panthers coach Ron Rivera hasn't given up on finding an every-down defensive end to play opposite of Charles Johnson.

The first test will come in tonight’s preseason opener at Buffalo.

There actually will be more opportunities than normal with Johnson out on the left side with a calf injury.

Frank Alexander and Kony Ealy are the leaders in the clubhouse to play the right side. But with Johnson out, Mario Addison and Wes Horton will get plenty of chances to impress.

Addison led that group in sacks last season with 6.5, as the Panthers replaced Pro Bowl end Greg Hardy by committee.

“Everybody says, 'Well, we're going to do it by committee [again],'" Rivera said. “That’s fine. But if one guy steps up and becomes the water mark, everybody competes to get more playing time.

“That’s what I’m hoping for as far as somebody stepping up at that position.’’

Starting defensive tackles Kawann Short (back) and Star Lotulelei (foot) will join Johnson on the inactive list against Buffalo.

Rivera is looking to see which tackles among Kyle Love, Micanor Regis, Terry Redden and Chas Alecxih step up to support veterans Colin Cole and Dwan Edwards.

“I’m expecting to take most of that defensive line into the second quarter, probably with the exception of Dwan, Colin and Kyle," Rivera said.