CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) — The Carolina Panthers wasted little time naming a new defensive coordinator after Steve Wilks left to become head coach of the Arizona Cardinals.
Panthers coach Ron Rivera promoted defensive line coach Eric Washington as Wilks’ replacement on Monday, just hours after the hiring of Wilks became official. Rivera said after the season that had a hunch Wilks would get a head coaching job, and was prepared in the event that it happened.
Wilks’ departure means the Panthers will enter next season with three new coordinators.
Rivera fired offensive coordinator Mike Shula two days after the season and replaced him with Norv Turner. Special teams coordinator Thomas McGaughey was replaced by former assistant coach Chase Blackburn. McGaughey’s contract was up and he wanted to pursue other options.
It’s the second straight season the Panthers have lost a defensive coordinator to a head coaching gig.
Last year the Buffalo Bills hired Sean McDermott as their new head coach.
It’s expected that Wilks will take a few current Carolina assistants with him, including linebackers coach Al Holcomb and assistant offensive line coach Ray Brown.
Washington has served as the Panthers defensive line coach for the past seven seasons. During that span the Panthers defensive line has recorded more sacks (219) than any team in the NFL.
Washington’s defensive line has not only been productive in getting to the quarterback, but also fared well against the run. Carolina has ranked in the top six in the NFL in four of the past six seasons in run defense, including a No. 2 ranking in 2013.
Under Washington, the Panthers defensive line has featured two All-Pro selections and two Pro Bowl selections. Since 2013, a Panthers defensive lineman has earned NFC Defensive Player of the Week three times and NFC Defensive Player of the Month twice.
The Panthers defense has finished in the top 10 in defense five of the last six seasons, including four consecutive from 2012-15. Washington has been a part of a Carolina coaching staff that has led the Panthers to playoff appearances in four of the past five seasons, including a Super Bowl 50 appearance two seasons ago.