Defensive end Yetur Gross-Matos feels like he can transcend to a better player in 2022 to help the Carolina Panthers defensive line.
The third-year end figures to see a bigger role since Haason Reddick left in free agency, and Gross-Matos is ready for the challenge.
In an interview with Augusta Stone of the official Panthers website, Gross-Matos feels like this is a year he can improve significantly.
"I feel like I could be one of the better players in this league," Gross-Matos said in an interview with Stone. “I feel like I'm definitely ready to make the jump going into this season.”
This would be a make-or-break year for him as he showed promise in the 2021 season despite injuries. In the 2021 campaign, Gross-Matos made 15 solo tackles, recorded five tackles for a loss, and 3.5 sacks on the season. He is a bigger player than Reddick, so he may be a solid pass rusher, or improve the run defense. While Carolina possessed an average to above-average run defense, it is crucial that it maintain good edge rushers, which the former Penn. State end can be when healthy. What may show a huge step is in the 12 games he played in 2020, Gross-Matos recorded eight solo tackles, then in 2021 posted 15 solos in 14 games. This does show more involvement in the defense, and a bigger role, plus improving as a player makes this year a critical one for the former second-round pick.
This is a problem of Gross-Matos as he missed four games in the 2020 season and three in the 2021 season.
Again, if healthy this would be a year for Gross-Matos to bust out and further build on the momentum he held at the end of the 2021 season.
Carolina may run a platoon of backs and ends as it figures out what works best to replace Reddick.
The Panthers signed defensive tackle Matt Ioannidis who helps create a better front for the black and blue as he made 36 solo tackles in 2019. He dipped in that category significantly the following two seasons, where one season he played only three games but there is upside.
Defensive coordinator Phil Snow noted in an interview with Stone that health would be the biggest concern for Gross-Matos, but the potential is there.
"One of his biggest problems of not getting on the field in the last two years has been his health," Snow said. "That's my biggest concern with him. If he stays healthy and can practice every day and play every week, then I think his future is really bright here."
This is already an interesting year for the black and blue as multiple personnel are worth watching, some in skeptical ways, but this could be a good development for the Panthers. If Gross-Matos pushes into the upper echelon of edge rushers, then him and Brian Burns for a dynamic, young duo for Carolina.
As with everything, it will be worth monitoring this 2022 season how Gross-Matos remains on the field and what he does when he’s on it.