Carolina Panthers secondary coach Steve Wilks had a sense in April that new general manager Dave Gettleman might get him some help – not necessarily in the form of defensive backs, but pass rushers.

Wilks was familiar with Gettleman’s history with the New York Giants, who won two Super Bowls in a five-year span with defenses built around tenacious defensive fronts and pieced-together secondaries.

So when Gettleman took a pair of defensive tackles and did not select a defensive back during his first Panthers’ draft, Wilks was not surprised.

Nor was Wilks displeased.

“Just understanding Gettleman’s background and seeing the success they had. They won two Super Bowls, and it all started up front,” Wilks said. “He came in building a philosophy as far as wanting to establish the offensive and defensive lines. And I agree. Because I believe if you have a great pass rush, it’s going to help your secondary out.”

The Panthers had a good pass rush last season when defensive ends Charles Johnson and Greg Hardy combined for 23.5 sacks, the second-best total by a tandem in team history and third-highest by a pass-rushing duo in the league in 2012.

But after re-signing Dwan Edwards and drafting Star Lotulelei and Kawann Short in the first two rounds, the Panthers hope they can improve their interior rush and, in turn, their pass coverage.

“All good defenses have a good D-line. They get pressure on the quarterback. They get sacks,” said cornerback D.J. Moore, who signed as a free agent with the Panthers during the offseason. “So when you see that they (drafted) guys that can pressure the pocket, especially up the middle where the quarterback can’t step up, it’s going to benefit the back end.”

The members of the Panthers’ defensive backfield are far from household names in NFL circles.

Carolina cut its top defensive back – veteran corner and former first-round pick Chris Gamble – in a salary cap move, and did not add any top-tier free agents.

Six of the team’s top nine defensive backs were drafted in the fifth round or lower, and none has gone to a Pro Bowl. Free safety Charles Godfrey, a five-year starter, is the closest thing the Panthers have to a star in the secondary.

But Moore, who played his first four seasons in Chicago, said the Panthers have the makings of a successful secondary, regardless of their Q rating.

“Everybody’s into the big free agency thing. So if you don’t sign a real big name, it’s ... viewed as (not) doing much,” Moore said. “I feel like once you give guys opportunities, every year somebody steps up. So I feel like even the guys from last year or the guys that came in, once they get the opportunity to play, with all the competition out here we’ll be fine.”

Tampa Bay, one of Carolina’s NFC South rivals, made one of the biggest offseason splashes by trading for Pro Bowl cornerback Darrelle Revis. The Bucs used their second-round pick on Mississippi State cornerback Johnthan Banks.

In a division marked by strong quarterback play, the Falcons lost three corners during the offseason. They released Dunta Robinson in a cost-cutting move, and did not re-sign Brent Grimes or Christopher Owens.