Carolina Panthers defensive end Mario Addison is a disruptive pass-rusher with a knack for getting into the backfield and unloading on the quarterback.
He just happens to play behind two guys who are even better at doing the same thing.
Addison doesn’t begrudge starting defensive ends Charles Johnson and Greg Hardy, who last season combined for 23 1/2 sacks. Addison appreciates the guidance they’ve given him since he arrived in Charlotte last December.
The Panthers were Addison’s fourth team in 14 months after stints with Chicago, Indianapolis and Washington. He has experience as an outside linebacker in the Colts’ 3-4 scheme, as well as a hand-in-the-dirt, 4-3 defensive end.
“I look up to those guys because they show me the right way. I still got a little 3-4 in me, as far as reading keys and stuff. Playing behind those guys, I really get a feel for the 4-3,” Addison said of Johnson and Hardy.
“You’ve got to wait your turn, man. Everything’s not promised. You’ve got to work hard to get where you (want to be).”
Addison has been all over since signing with the Bears as an undrafted free agent out of Troy in 2011. He played in three games with Chicago as a rookie, then bounced from Chicago to Indy to Washington.
The Panthers signed him off the Redskins’ practice squad last December, and Addison played in their final four games. He recorded his first career sack in San Diego when he took down Philip Rivers and forced a fumble.
Addison got his first NFL start two weeks later as a strongside linebacker at New Orleans in Week 17.
“Being versatile is good. The more, the better,” Addison said following Sunday’s practice. “I can rush stand-up, so I think that’s a good opportunity for me to help the team.”
But Addison’s strongest suit is his quickness off the edge, or as he puts it: “Speed, speed, speed.”
He comes from a tradition of strong pass-rushers that have matriculated to the NFL from Troy, following Atlanta defensive end Osi Umenyiora and Dallas linebacker DeMarcus Ware.
While no one around Bank of America Stadium is suggesting Addison has that type of talent, the Panthers’ coaches like what Addison brings to the defense.
“Mario’s a speed rusher. He’s got a great ability to get off on the edge and make something happen,” Panthers coach Ron Rivera said. “He’s also a little bit more stout than I think people give him credit for.”
The Panthers can use the 6-foot-3, 260-pound Addison in much the way they did Antwan Applewhite – bringing him on a blitz as a stand-up linebacker or putting him at defensive end and bumping Hardy or Johnson to defensive tackle in certain passing situations.
“Anybody that comes into the ballgame, we expect to function, compete and produce like a starter,” defensive line coach Eric Washington said. “That’s the expectation for all of the guys, and Mario’s no different.”
Addison got off to a good start with four tackles against Chicago in the first preseason game. He sacked Bears third-team quarterback Matt Blanchard in the third quarter, forcing a fumble that Chicago recovered.
Addison knows that – barring an injury to Johnson or Hardy – his snaps will be limited. But for someone who’s never stayed in one NFL city very long, Addison is just happy to be in the Panthers’ plans.
“Eventually I’ll get that shot. And when I get that shot, I’ve got to capitalize on it,” Addison said. “I know my role in the defense. I just do the role that coach tells me to do.”
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