Mario Addison is listed as a defensive end and outside linebacker for the Carolina Panthers, so for this we’ll just call him an EDGE defender. Seems fair.
Facing this NFC South divisional rival for the second time this year, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers are looking to continue their up and down trend with an up week following their down performance in New Orleans one week ago.
Standing between them and a successful trip to London is Mario Addison and his Panthers teammates. Before you attack your enemy, you have to know him. So, let’s get to know Mario Addison.
MARIO ADDISON’S HISTORY
Addison got his first career sack with the Carolina Panthers back in 2012, but before that came stints with the Chicago Bears, Indianapolis Colts (while Bruce Arians was on staff), and the Washington Redskins.
Between 2011-2012, Addison was on four different franchise’s, and started his pro career as an undrafted free-agent coming out of Troy after a 2010 campaign that saw the defensive lineman net 10.5 sacks on the year.
Just about every successful undrafted free-agent story involves a hungry player looking for an opportunity, and then making the most of the one they get. The same can be said for Addison who has been on active rosters every year of his career, but really stuck once he landed with the Panthers in 2012.
As a member of both the Colts and Bears rosters, Addison played seven games as an undrafted rookie. In 2012, he appeared in eleven games combined as a Colts, Redskins and Panthers defender.
That first sack came with Carolina, and ever since, he’s appeared in no fewer than fourteen games for the past six years leading into 2019. His top statistical season came in 2017, as he racked up 11 sacks, hitting double digits for the first time in his career.
He followed it up with a nine sack 2018 season, and is on pace to shatter his career marks this year.
Speaking of this year....
2019 MARIO ADDISON
Your Top-5 NFL sack leaders for 2019 are Shaquil Barrett (9, Tampa Bay Buccaneers - duh), Myles Garrett (7 - Cleveland Browns), Mario Addison (6.5 - Carolina Panthers), Clay Matthews (6, Los Angeles Rams), and Preston Smith (5.5, Green Bay Packers). Just like we all expected, right?
Outside of Garrett, its unlikely any of those names were projected to be Top-5 sack getters coming into the year. Predictions are seldomly accurate though, which is what makes the game worth watching.
Addison started his year with a zero sack, zero tackle performance against the Los Angeles Rams, and the Panthers lost 27-30. Then, he had his first half sack of the year against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in Week 2, and the Panthers lost 20-14.
Since then, Addison has had three sacks, then two, then one coming against the Arizona Cardinals, Houston Texans and Jacksonville Jaguars. All wins. So, if my math is correct then Carolina is 3-0 in games where Addison has a full sack or more.
Of course, he’s not doing it alone, as the entire Panthers defense appears to have come to life following their two-game losing streak to open the year.
Still, getting pressure on young quarterbacks like Kyler Murray, Deshaun Watson and Gardner Minshew certainly contribute to wins. Getting two of those on the road help significantly to offset the two home losses in Weeks 1 and 2 as well.
This weekend, Addison and company will be looking to pressure Jameis Winston who is still young, but four year’s experienced with his fifth looking like perhaps his best as an individual player.
It’s going to take more than pressure to beat Winston, who rates as one of the best quarterbacks in the league when facing pressure. But Addison is going to do his best to keep up his impressive 2019, and get his Panthers a third road win as a result.
Here’s how he’ll do it, and here’s how the Bucs can try to prevent him from doing so.
Perhaps the most valuable skill a player can have in today’s NFL is versatility. A quarterback who can run will likely get a shot at making a roster. Running back who can catch passes and/or pass block really well? You’ll get a camp invite. Wide receiver who can win in the slot and outside, against man and zone? Yep, you’ll have a team interested. So on and so forth.
So, at 32 years old, Addison entered an NFL where players had a role and were expected to play that role. He’s seen the game shift to where every player needs to bring multiple things to the table to be ultimately successful, and he’s survived the transition.
Carolina has been one such team to highly covet the ability to move their players around, especially on defense. Along with Addison, the Panthers currently have four other defenders listed as LB/DE as the team employs Brian Burns, Marquis Haynes, Bruce Irvin and Christian Miller in a multitude of ways.
This flexibility keeps opposing offenses on their toes and forces quarterbacks to read almost entirely new defensive looks play in and play out.
It also allows his team opportunities to find different ways of getting Addison favorable match-ups, and once he finds a spot he can make money at, it’s going to be a long day for the lineman he keys in on.
o DECEPTIVE STRENGTH
Like most edge rushers, Addison isn’t the biggest guy in the world and tries to win mostly with speed and fluidity in hand fighting and counters to get past offensive linemen.
However, he can convert speed to power and come off the line with surprising power if the guy lining up accross from him isn’t ready for it.
Don’t get me wrong, a bull-rusher, Addison is not. But if his match-up is getting clearly settled in the routine of stopping the pass rusher’s speed and athleticism, he will find a spot to take advantage of this with a sudden power move to get the upper hand.
Addison has had a similar start in the past. In 2018, the then 31-year old tallied seven sacks through Week 9 after getting three alone against the Buccaneers.
However, he had just one and a half sacks for the rest of the year, and didn’t get his next full sack until Week 17 against the New Orleans Saints.
This year, he’s been a bit better to start the year getting multiple sacks in two of his team’s five games and at least one full sack in three. But he did have a no sack appearance and a half sack game against the Bucs this year already.
It’s not likely he’s going to have no sacks this week, something that hasn’t happened for Addison against Tampa Bay since October of 2016.
When is aggressiveness a bad thing? When your opponent uses it against you, of course.
Several questions this week were posed to Panthers head coach Ron Rivera and offensive coordinator Norv Turner about using Tampa Bay’s defensive aggressiveness against them.
They might want to be a little careful their own defensive aggressiveness isn’t used against them, as well.
Addison has a great motor and looks to genuinely enjoy playing the game. However, sometimes his desire to make a play can hurt him as he gets easily filtered inside or out depending on what the offense is trying to do.
Not all the time of course, as the seasoned veteran also displays exceptional football intelligence in moments where opposing offenses are trying to manipulate him early. But when he misses, he misses bad.
Losing contain on perimeter runs can be really bad news when facing a running back like Ronald Jones, and also plays into what the Bucs will want to do in the screen game.
It’s been a great start to the year, and another solid season in a long list of solid years for Addison as an NFL defender.
Something that is definitely a fact, is how underrated Addison has been in his career. A fact he discussed with Charlotte Observer reporter Scott Fowler recently. When Fowler asked Addison about potentially earning his first career Pro Bowl selection, Addison said,
“The Pro Bowl would be good, but sometimes the Pro Bowl is rigged up - it’s all about popularity...I don’t care about being popular. I’ve been under the radar my whole career.”
Well, we see you Mario. And if the Bucs don’t have him on their radar by now, he might just force his way there anyway.