When the Panthers signed Da’Norris Searcy during free agency, it was clear that his addition was an attempt to allow the Panthers to enter the draft without having to draft a safety to play alongside Mike Adams. However, the Panthers did end up drafting a safety in the third round in Rashaan Gaulden and one of the more significant position battles in training camp is likely to be the one for the starting free safety spot – while it is hard to know exactly what the Panthers have in Gaulden, the veteran Searcy is more of a known quantity. So what can the Panthers expect from Searcy?
Searcy is at his best, and his most comfortable, when asked to make plays as a run defender in the box. The Titans used him repeatedly as the edge defender on the back side, something the Panthers also do with their defensive backs, and he showed an effectiveness and awareness to hold initially in case of a rollout before crashing the backside of the play (for reference, Searcy is wearing #21):
The impressive part here is the quickness with which he is able to go from still to full speed – this allows him to make the tackle for minimal gain. In a similar way, Tennessee also used him on blitzes off the edge at times, using that acceleration to create negative plays against the run:
Crucial to any player’s run defense is tackling technique, and Searcy is reassuringly good in this regard. When sensible, Searcy shows the ability to get low and wrap up, preventing yards after contact:
He also uses the same speed to limit gains on the ground when playing outside the box, getting downhill quickly to attack the ball carrier, but with enough control to maintain good tackling technique:
The final area where he impresses in the run game is in his ability to take on blockers. While he isn’t going to be smashing linemen backwards on power plays, he is able to hold his ground against tight ends and fight to the ball to make plays:
There is a reason why Searcy has spent much of his career at strong safety, as his ability to be a factor against the run as a box defender is almost certainly his biggest asset. It is still very unclear how the Eric Washington defense will look to utilize the free safety, but if Searcy does spend significant time on the field this season, Washington would be foolish not to make the most of his ability in this regard.