How Matt Rhule’s secret hire is helping the Carolina Panthers

PFN's Chief NFL Analyst Trey Wingo discusses the Carolina Panthers defense, including Matt Rhule's secret hire, following their 2-0 start.

The Carolina Panthers are off to a fast start this season with an undefeated record. On this week’s More Than Football podcast, PFN’s Chief NFL Analyst Trey Wingo and host Brett Yarris talk about how the defense and Matt Rhule’s coaching staff have contributed to their success.

To watch this episode of More Than Football, tune in to the video player above. You can also listen to the podcast in the player at the end of the article or on your favorite podcast platform, including Apple Podcasts and Spotify.

Defense is the story for the Carolina Panthers so far this season

Former New York Jets quarterback Sam Darnold has played well for Carolina in 2021, helped by the Panthers’ offensive coordinator Joe Brady. However, Wingo believes the real story for the Panthers is on defense, which makes sense, given Carolina’s recent history.

Wingo brings up the fact that they gave up the most points per game in franchise history in 2019. They then used all of their 2020 draft picks on the defensive side of the ball, the first time that’s been done in the common draft era. That level of investment has clearly paid dividends.

An underrated coaching hire has been key for the Panthers

According to Wingo, one of the most important changes Carolina has made this year is one that no one is talking about — the hiring of defensive coordinator Phil Snow. Snow came to the Panthers from Baylor along with head coach Matt Rhule. And Wingo loves what Snow has done:

“What he has them doing with that defense is absolutely fun to watch.”

Carolina plays a sort of 3-3-5 defense, which is far more common in college than in the NFL. Nevertheless, so far this season, it’s been working. Against New Orleans, they turned Jameis Winston back into his old, interception-throwing self.

Jeremy Chinn has benefitted immensely from Carolina’s coaching

For a more specific example of the success the Panthers’ defensive coaching staff has had, Wingo brings up Jeremy Chinn. Chinn is technically a safety. Yet, according to Wingo, “Calling Jeremy Chinn a safety is like calling Arthur Ashe just a tennis player.”

Fox Sports’ Mark Schlereth told Wingo about a conversation he had with a Carolina coach. The coach said that after team meetings, when most players broke off into their respective position groups, Chinn had a coaching session with multiple different coaches because he ends up playing so many positions.

Chinn moves around so often, playing rush end, linebacker, safety, and others, Wingo dubs him as “the Derwin James you don’t know about.”

Matt Rhule has a track record of success

To close out his thoughts on the Panthers, Wingo points out that Rhule is simply doing what he has always done:

“He’s built something.”

He did it at Temple, at Baylor after the scandal there, and now he is doing it again with the Panthers. They’ve started 2-0 and beat a New Orleans Saints team that looked dominant in Week 1. And while it’s true that the Saints were missing eight assistant coaches due to COVID-19 concerns, Wingo believes we have to give credit to Carolina’s coaching staff for their excellent start.

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