Panthers Charles Johnson on pace for career best season

Charlotte, NC (WBTV)

After 5 straight losses the Panthers finally found a way to finish and win, Sunday against the Washington Redskins, 21 to 13.

It was also a well balanced win, both on offense and defense.

At his weekly Monday afternoon press conference, Head Coach Ron Rivera credits the hard work the team has putting in. He says groups of guys, not just individuals, stay after practice to work on things and get better.

The improvement can also greatly be seen on the defense. All season defensive coordinator Sean McDermott has focused on takeaways and turnovers, Rivera says that has given the guys a way to be more aggressive.

It starts in the trenches, with improvement from defensive ends Greg Hardy and Charles Johnson.

Rivera says Greg Hardy is doing things he needs to be doing, to become a very good player in the league, "this off-season I had a opportunity to sit down with him and discuss where we see him and what he needs to do, and he's taken that to heart".

Hardy sacked bears quarterback Jay Cutler 3 times last week, and brought down Redskins QB Robert Griffin III twice Sunday night.

And then there is veteran defensive end Charles Johnson, who recorded his 7.5 sack this season against Washington. His career best is 11.5.

Looking at the stat sheet, you'd think Johnson didn't get rolling until week 4 against Atlanta, where he emerged with 3.5 sacks on Matt Ryan. Coach Rivera says 'Big Money' has been flying around since the off-season, and week two's game against the New Orleans Saints is where it really started to show, "he basically caused the interception that Charles Godfrey returned for a touchdown and you saw him tackle behind the line of scrimmage, and force throws early".

Johnson has also taken over the leadership role, as a defensive co-captain, since linebacker Jon Beason was placed on injured reserve.