Kawaan Short’s Star Shining Bright in 2014

 Kawaan Short

When Dave Gettleman drafted his two back-to-back hog-mollies, Star Lotulelei and Kawaan Short, in 2014, there wasn’t much sexy to it.  I mean they are hog-mollies, right?  Gettleman didn’t reach on a receiver or a corner, but instead followed the almighty BPA (best player available) doctrine.  Star had dropped because concerns about a heart condition that had prevented him from participating in the combine, and Short was one of those players who had a high grade, with higher potential, that just didn’t get all that much draft acclaim. 

Star’s heart condition turned out to be a temporary aberration, and the picks proved tremendous. Star started 16 games and played an important role in shoring up the Panthers run-defense. Not only was he on the field a lot, but he was productive. Racking up 34 tackles and 3 sacks, Star graded off the charts nearly in every measurable category.  Short also found noticeable success rotating in behind veteran Dwan Edwards. Lotulelei was the star, but Short found himself on the field more and more as the season progressed.  

Star Lotulelei

Games Def Interceptions Fumbles Sacks & Tackles
Year Age Tm Pos G GS Sk Int Yds TD Lng PD FF Fmb FR Yds TD Tkl Ast Sfty AV
2013 24 CAR RDT 16 16 3.0 34 14 9
2014 25 CAR DT/rdt 13 12 0 0 0 0 1 11 7
Career 29 28 3.0 0 0 0 0 1 45 21 9
Provided by Pro-Football-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 12/23/2014.

Kawaan Short

Games Def Interceptions Fumbles Sacks & Tackles
Year Age Tm Pos G GS Sk Int Yds TD Lng PD FF Fmb FR Yds TD Tkl Ast Sfty AV
2013 24 CAR 16 0 1.5 1 0 1 0 0 19 16 2
2014 25 CAR ldt 15 8 3.0 0 0 0 0 2 1 0 2 0 0 21 19
Career 31 8 4.5 0 0 0 0 2 2 0 3 0 0 40 35 2
Provided by Pro-Football-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 12/23/2014.

The Panthers defensive line hasn’t yielded the same suffocating results in 2014, however. Star has been one where the decline has been most noticeable. Early, many attributed this to Greg Hardy’s absence.  Offenses focused more attention on Star without the Kraken. He wasn’t only that missed the Kraken, even veteran Charles Johnson struggled early, but things got worse for the second year player when he suffered “a very ugly looking” low-ankle sprain against the Philadelphia Eagles.  Carolina hoped it wasn’t as bad as it looked, describing it as more of a “basketball type sprain,” but Ron Rivera cautioned that “he is a big guy, and big guys tend to heal a little bit slower on ankle sprains.”

The basketball sprain didn’t prove easy to overcome.  Star missed three games essentially.  He went out against the Eagles after 27 snaps when he had played 59 snaps a week earlier.  Star then missed the next two games, only to test the ankle in a blowout against New Orleans. Star had been playing better prior to the injury, but the fact that he still hasn’t recorded a sack on the season only shows that injury lingered. 

As Star’s production fell, Short’s star has shined.  Short, a year and a half after being drafted, finally worked his way into the starting lineup against Seattle, just one week before Star’s ankle-sprain.  He earned his spot in the rotation, and it came with added pressure when Star went down. Short has responded to the added responsibility, and his stat-line shows it (3 sacks, 6 QB hits, 17 QB hurries, 34 tackles). Past the stat-sheet, Short has made some big plays in big moments.  Most recently, Short put a stop to Cleveland’s last offensive opportunity stand when he viciously sacked Brian Hoyer, forcing a 3rd and 21 that Cleveland fell short of converting. 

 Kawaan Short

Carolina’s struggles this season haven’t all been for naught.  Somehow, the Panthers find themselves in a high-noon duel against the Atlanta Falcons for a chance to make the playoffs. Perhaps more important, the Panthers long-term success will come from the necessity of young players stepping into bigger roles this season. Rookies like Trai Turner, Andrew Norwell, Bene Benwikere, and Kony Ealy have been asked to shoulder more responsibility this season than had hoped, certainly more than Star and Short had to in their rookie years. Short is growing quickly out of this category of young players who have played larger roles than expected. He’s been, perhaps, the most consistent defensive lineman this season.  

Possibly most exciting, Short’s star is shining brightly.  He’s assuming a more important role in the defense and responding on the field. Nothing suggests Star’s struggles will be a problem going forward either. He’s a talented player, who burst onto the scene. Just as he started to get his sea-legs in his second season, injury affected his orientation. We’ve seen him play at a high level, however, so there’s no real fear that we will see him fall short in the future.  

Merry Christmas Panther fans, It looks as if two stars are emerging in Carolina.