CHARLOTTE, NC - DECEMBER 14: Teammates Geoff Hangartner #63 and Na'il Diggs #52 of the Carolina Panthers enter the field during their game against the Denver Broncos at Bank of America Stadium on December 14, 2008 in Charlotte, North Carolina (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)
There's something to be said for the Carolina Panthers' defense; just what that is seems to be the debatable part.
First, they can be pretty intimidating at full health. The linebacking pair of Jon Beason and Thomas Davis, who battled for the team lead in tackles in 2008 (Beason won), will hit you in the mouth no questions asked, and that's if you get past the Julius Peppers-led front four, which has historically been a stronghold for Carolina. But again, this is at full health, a pervasive caveat in any discussion concerning football.
At the moment, Carolina is anything but "at full health," particularly on the defensive side of things.
Of Carolina's top ten tacklers in 2008, two--starting strong safety Chris Harris (4th) and linebacker Na'il Diggs (9th)--will be on the sidelines for the game in Dallas. Diggs is an able tackler, not a game-changer really, but a solid veteran. He will be missed, but not as much, in all likelihood, as Chris Harris.
Harris is (a) an intimidating hitter (think Roy Williams in, say, 2003, before teams figured him out) and (b) the heart of that defense, what gushing sportscasters usually refer to as a "field general".
This is only the latest in a string of debilitating injuries for Carolina. The team lost starting DT Maake Kemoeatu to a ruptured achilles tendon the first day of training camp; then, another DT, Louis Leonard suffered a broken ankle in the team's week 2 loss to Atlanta, less than a month after being acquired from the Browns to fill in for--you guessed it--Keomeatu.
The good news, or consolation prize, depending on how you look at it, for the Panthers is Nick Hayden, who will return this week after sitting out with a bruised toe against Atlanta. But, judging by recent events, Hayden will probably slip on a banana peel in the locker room at JerryWorld, resulting in a season-ending injury.
DE Everette Brown, the team's first draft pick in 2009, is also doubtful for Monday night, with an ankle injury.