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  1. 45 points
    The Panthers are 1-0 after winning their road opener against Jacksonville. You wouldn't guess it based on a random sampling of fan responses following the victory. Here is the statistical spread of blame for a marginal performance in which the offense only put up 7 total points. The flogging of Mike Shula in fan dialogue reflects a deep frustration with the performance of offenses he's coordinated, from Tampa Bay to Alabama to Carolina. A smaller contingent of fans point the finger at the receiving corps, and by extension general manager Dave Gettleman, as the personnel-based source of ineptitude. Some even blame Cam Newton. As a bartender in the Carolinas I constantly endure uninformed prattling about football from Natty Light-hucking patrons, and the Monday following the win was no exception. Some narratives refuse to die, like Cam's Gatorade towel singlehandedly stalling drives downfield. So it goes. Whatever the cause, Panthers fans are convinced they've got the worst offense in the league. Jacksonville head coach Gus Bradley certainly seemed to think so. In fact, he designed an entire gameplan around the premise that none of our receivers couldn't get open. "We're going to be aware of Greg Olsen," he told reporters last week, "but we're not gonna obsess." Riiiight. Tests concluded that this statement was a monstrous lie. Let's expose it by identifying a couple of themes in defensive plays the Jaguars ran consistently during all four quarters of the game. 1) The Jaguars bracketed Greg Olsen on every single play. Gus Bradley is such a liar. On the following play, Olsen lines up on the right side of the line. He's supposed to release between the linebacker and safety running a post upfield, a bread-and-butter play for the Panthers (and one of Cam's most consistent throws.) Look what happens next. The Jaguars drop a safety in the box, and then roll the middle linebacker, weakside linebacker, AND the safety to cover Olsen. In doing this they're willing to leave single coverage on the X receiver (looks like Cotchery) running a deep streak and the Z receiver, rookie Funchess, on the hitch route back inside. Greg Olsen got open anyway, but Cam read the coverage and went to Funchess instead. This is what effective defenses do. The Jaguars did this all afternoon. Here's another one: This time Olsen just runs in front of the linebackers and just sits down in the open space. Two linebackers converge on him and the safety freezes long enough to let Philly Brown streak right by him and the corner assigned to Ted Ginn. Of course, both these plays ended in incompletions for the Panthers, which might suggest Jacksonville was able to shut us down by removing Greg Olsen from the equation. Fortunately for us that's not the case. Let's move on to the fourth quarter, and our second defensive theme: 2) The Jaguars played with one deep safety for most of the game. Coupled with their attempts to bracket Olsen out of existence, they dropped a safety into the box to stifle the running game. In doing so they demonstrated a willingness to leave their corners on an island, confident in their ability to shut down Carolina's much-maligned stable of wide receivers. What happened? Those are only a handful of plays, but they're all important. On every play, in the clutch, each receiver was good enough to get open against Jacksonville's single coverage. Gus Bradley gambled on all those plays, hoping a single safety and single coverage from the corners was good enough to win the game, and it wasn't. In fact, his plan looked better than it actually should have; had a controversial penalty not eliminated an early Greg Olsen touchdown (capping off an absolutely brilliant drive) and Ted Ginn not dropped a walk-in touchdown, we'd be looking at a 27-9 drubbing and a fabulous offensive performance on the road. The conclusion? The conclusion is we're 1-0 and you can expect the Panthers to have a pretty good season. The loss of Kelvin Benjamin had emboldened defensive coordinators who now think Carolina has no receiving corps, but Gus Bradley served as the league's unfortunate guinea pig in testing that theory - measured, weight, and found wanting. Mike Shula is far from the best offensive coordinator in the league, and the wide receivers are far from the best position group on the team or in the NFL, but they're good enough to demand two deep safeties, to demand less attention to Greg Olsen and the running game. The wide receivers are good enough to win. I expect they'll contribute to a 2-0 start with a couple of touchdowns this Sunday.
  2. 24 points
    One of the more interesting stories of the 2015 Carolina Panthers OTA sessions has been the improvement of Corey Brown at the wide receiver position. A few days ago during practice I was standing next to Bill Voth of BBR discussing Brown's improvement. We came to the conclusion that the best sign of his arrival as a player was the fact that we were no longer really taking note of his receptions. Meaning, Corey Brown making plays had become routine, not noteworthy. That is a true sign of a player's growth. After the final Panthers OTA practice, I wanted to speak to Corey about his growth and his thoughts of the receivers group as a whole. So I waited, and waited, and waited a bit more. You see, Corey was across the field catching one handed passes with the defensive backs. The receivers group was not doing any extra reps after practice, so Brown took it upon himself to find another group to work with. Once I did catch up with him, I asked him how he went from an undrafted free agent in 2014 to one of the more impressive receivers early in 2015. "All I can control is what I do." Brown said of his improvement. "Staying focused, not letting anything that happened last year get to me." Brown had some success as a rookie, but clearly he is focused on building on his achievements, not reminiscing over them. Brown understands the numbers with this 2015 receivers group. Even though he has been playing mainly with the first team, he knows his roster spot is not guaranteed. For the first time in a long time, talented receivers are not going to make the Carolina Panthers roster. For the team, that is a great thing. For the individuals, it provides extra motivation. "Its a way more competitive group this year, from top to bottom. There is nothing but skill at the receiver position. There is a lot of competition this year." Part of the increase in skill level was due to the Panthers trading up for receiver Devin Funchess in the second round. The Panthers had Funchess graded as a first rounder, and it has shown on the practice field. Corey Brown has been impressed. "I've known Funchess, he played at Michigan so I have been watching him for a while. He is picking up the offense fast." Brown remarked. "He is going to be huge for us this year." If you look at the above photo again, the other player in the photo dressed in all black is Gamecocks rookie Damiere Byrd. Like Brown in 2014, Byrd is an undrafted receiver trying to make his way. Clearly he has taken note and is looking at Brown's work ethic as an example of what it takes to succeed. This is the first look we have gotten at Corey Brown the mentor. "I told (Byrd), sometimes you may not get one rep the whole period" Brown said. "You can't let that get you down, because then when it's your time to go you aren't going to mentally be able to perform. I told him many times just wait until camp. Once camp comes around you are going to get as many reps as you need."
  3. 23 points
    Over the past several weeks, Kelvin Benjamin had to live with the first bit of real negative press about him concerning his weight. Of course, we all remember in June when Ron Rivera remarked he was 10 pounds overweight, which played a role in his hamstring pull. Well, if the first training camp practice of 2015 was any indication, Kelvin Benjamin has turned that criticism into motivation and made a statement saying exactly that. Kelvin made multiple catches from Cam Newton, finding a nice soft spot in the zone defenses and making the grab. While being covered by a variety of players, from Boston to Byndom to Norman, Benjamin made play after play, and did it with style. Towards the end of practice, Kelvin hauled in a long bomb form Cam Newton in which he out bodied and out jumped Carrington Byndom for what would have been a first down in the red zone. I think it is safe to say we can all officially put to rest the concerns over Kelvin's conditioning (which I never fully bought into in the first place.) Kelvin has picked up exactly where he left off last season, namely the most dangerous receiver on the team.
  4. 20 points
    One of the most important stories of the week that few people are talking about is Cam Newton and his health. After an injury plagued 2014 offseason that only got worse into the regular season, Cam's health probably should be more at the forefront of the Panthers fan concerns. I can remember in training camp of 2014, after practices Cam could barely walk up the hill to the ice tubs. The physical toll after a single practice was obvious to even the most casual observer. He would cringe after each step, soreness from surgery performed on his ankle nagging at him. It would continue to bother him throughout the entire season. Throw in a couple of rib injuries before the end of 2014, and it is easy to see why his health should be a big concern. So at Thursday's OTA session, I was curious to see how Cam behaved. The first indication of his health came just after stretching, when Cam ran to the near practice field for drills. It wasn't a jog, or even a casual run. It was a near sprint to get to his next station. I had not seen that from Cam at practice in over a year. Next up was his throwing motion. Was there any indication that his rib injuries would nag him into 2015? Would there be any effect on the balls thrown? I've watched Cam in offseason drills now for five years. Watching him throw deep to Stephen Hill and Corey Brown showed me something I had not seen since his rookie season. Great form and precision accuracy. Cam entered the league and broke rookie passing records. After that, he struggled at times with high throws. Those, for the time being at least, seem to have disappeared. Cam hit his receivers in stride time after time on Thursday. It was the best practice performance I had seen from him in recent memory. Maybe his ankle truly did bother him for the past few seasons. Maybe he has been putting in extra work to correct technical mistakes. Whatever the reason, Cam Newton looked as sharp as I had ever seen him. Next up, what about those running plays, bother planned and improvised. Well, it was not long before Cam was running with the ball and matching the speed of Joe Webb (something that Cam could not do last season). There was little difference, if any, between the speed at which Webb would run with the ball from under center and when Cam Newton ran the same plays. Yes, it is the offseason. Yes, there is no risk of Cam getting hit. But I am comparing apples to apples here. Last season's training camp to this season's OTA's. The improvement in his physical ability is real. Finally, what about his demeanor after practice. Would he limp to the tubs like last year? Would he struggle to just make it off the practice field? Well, in this case, I will let the picture do the talking.
  5. 14 points
    Here's an anecdotal history lesson. During World War Two submarine operations became a critical part of the U.S. Navy's operations in the Pacific Theater. When I was eleven I read a book written by the captain of the USS Barb, a guy named Eugene Fluckey who had bigger balls than anyone in the United States Navy or even modern human history. This guy revolutionized submarine warfare from a tactical aspect, inventing several effective convoy approaches, and managed to do it while pulling off several Mission Impossible level escapades, including landing an impromptu team of engineers onto the Japanese mainland and blowing up a train. On the Japanese mainland. And that's not even his most notorious feat. This is: one night the Barb and her plucky crew crept into a heavily-armed, high-security Japanese controlled harbor on the Chinese coast and discovered it was chock full of anchored ships. Sitting ducks, all of them. To get in firing position they crept 26 miles inside the 20-fathom curve of the Chinese coast, which is an incredibly dangerous thing to do (they could've run aground, hit a mine, or been spotted) and proceeded to unleash fury on the anchored convoys. Fluckey emptied one torpedo tube after another, launching spreads of six, shifting a few degrees, firing again, and laying down the most awesome display of underwater firepower in the history of the world. It was a target-rich environment and all nine levels of hell emptied bowels of fire into that Chinese bay. Ammunition freighters blew up in technicolor mushroom clouds, troop ships split in half, searchlights split the sky, furious destroyers began depth-charging fish and whales and rocks and anything that looked like a shadow, and meanwhile Fluckey literally scraped along the bottom of the sound and kept firing. Target after target, completely unprotected, vanished in a column white water and a muffled boom. And then they set a world record for submarine escape speed at the time, surfacing and racing off into the night. All told Fluckey and the Barb destroyed 30 ships, an incredible feat for which he was awarded the Medal of Honor. I relate this tale because the utter chaos and explosive mayhem in that target-rich harbor was the first thing I thought of when I watched game film of the New Orleans Saints. No, really, the Saints are horrible. They're 0-2, but they're actually somehow worse than their record indicates. They may actually be the worst team in the league. In fact, I am confident that if Mike Shula can exploit some of the glaring weaknesses in Rob Ryan's defense we could see a four-quarter, 40+ point drubbing up and down the field in our most dominant performance since ...well, since the last time we played the Saints. Here's a few reasons why. 1) No one on the Saints defense knows their assignments. Sean Payton isn't getting in yelling matches with Rob Ryan for no reason. That defense is completely unprepared and has been for two weeks in a row. It's a combination of talent and scheme and it's allowing teams to do whatever they want. Check out the third play from scrimmage against the Arizona Cardinals in week one. The Cardinals are running a 4WR set against what looks to be the Saints nickel defense. What happens? Do you see what I see here? Everyone's open. Everyone. The ball is already out at this point, so the coverage isn't quite as bad as it looks, but the corners played off and both outside hitches and curls were open, Fitzgerald was wide open on the fade, and of course the slot receiver (near the 50-yard line) was wide open between the linebackers and safeties, all of whom completely froze. The result was an 18-yard gain en route to an opening-drive touchdown. This is just one play but it happened all day in this game. 2) The Saints' starting safeties are subpar. In this case, "subpar" is a euphemism for "worse diagnostic skills than a potted plant." They're thin at the position with Byrd down and offensive coordinators have found ways to isolate their backups over and over again. It's always a good matchup for the offense. I don't know why they're letting Jamarca Sanford see the field at strong safety, but between him and Kenny Phillips at free safety it's a lunch buffet for quarterbacks. They play deep, way deep, so scared to leave underperforming cornerbacks alone on deep routes that they constantly allow completions underneath. Take a look at this second-quarter play on third down: In the above frame the Cardinals empty the backfield. This play is designed to get Larry Fitzgerald the ball - the receivers run a clear-out pattern against the defense, keeping backs deep and leaving Fitzgerald in a zone by himself. Watch what happens: Once again it seems like everyone's wide open. Credit great scheming by Cardinals offensive coordinator Harold Goodwin to get guys in zone holes, bound to be there since nobody on the Saints defense can cover man-to-man. And, of course, credit poor safety play (the strong safety has his man, but the free safety is in cover zero right now) and atrocious linebacking play. First down, Cardinals (they scored on this drive too.) 3) The Saints may have the worst linebacking corps in the NFL. Picture Mel Gibson's friend beating the primae noctis knight with a mace and that's what happens to middle linebacker Stephone Anthony every single snap (see: awful coverage in the above frames.) OLB David Hawthorne is serviceable but not much better than that. In fairness to them they're playing behind a declawed pass rush and in front of terrible safeties, so they've got a lot on their shoulders, but check out this running play in the third quarter. Nothing spectacular here, just a standard single-back set, running to the left between the guard and tackle. The right guard pulls to help out in blocking. Look what happens: This snapshot is taken right as the running back (Chris Johnson) reaches the line of scrimmage. The left guard and left tackle do a great job of controlling the point of attack, but the linebackers should be cleaning this up. Instead rookie OLB Hau'oli Kikaha gets blown up while the MLB gets sucked in and completely misses the gap. Brandon Browner (who has looked absolutely awful so far himself) gets easily blocked out of the play, allowing Chris Johnson a 12-yeard pickup for a first down. 4) Without pro-bowl left guard Jahri Evans, the Saints offensive line consists of Max Unger and four clones of Byron Bell. The right side of that line is playing like the 2006 Oakland Raiders. The Saints have moved Tim Lelito to right guard in Evans's absence, and together with right tackle Zach Strief allowed the Buccaneers two sack/fumbles in addition to countless pressures and hits. I grabbed this snapshot of the second sack/fumble exactly one second after the ball was snapped: This should look familiar to Panthers fans, as it could've been our team at this point last season. As we all know, the Saints went on to lose this game. Thank God for Michael Oher and Dave Gettleman. Okay, let's sum all this up. Through two games we've established that there's a target rich environment on the field for offenses and defenses playing the New Orleans Saints. The Carolina Panthers are the USS Barb, sneaking into a harbor full of sluggish, impaired enemies and manning the torpedo tubes. Here are two key things they can do to drub the Saints for four quarters on Sunday: 1) Inform Charles Johnson to utilize the speed rush. Forget the bull rush and inside spin, just haul around the outside corner. Streif couldn't handle it all game, and the return of Star Lotulelei will leave Streif by himself most of the time. Big Money will get his. 2) Run this play until they figure out how to stop it. The above play takes advantage of two Saints weaknesses: OLB/Nickel, and safety. In this scheme Funchess is the Z at the top of the screen, Philly Brown is the X at the bottom, and Kevin Norwood is the Y, in the slot. When the Panthers interviewed Norwood they wanted him to run the spear route, which, incidentally, works beautifully with Philly Brown's skillset. Here the quarterback reads the right side of the field. If the linebacker (or nickel) drops back to cushion Philly Brown's curl (X) then Cam hits Norwood (Y) underneath. If the linebacker (or nickel) drops down to cover the spear, then Cam hits X on the curl. The tight end splits both terrible safeties, demanding their attention and ensuring either the X or the Y will have advantageous matchups; if the safeties move down they're leaving Olsen unbracketed and Funchess streaking upfield on a deep curl against a single man. Periscope up, boys and girls, we're scoring forty points. Bank it.
  6. 13 points
    In celebration of the Carolina Panthers signing Luke Kuechly to a new long term contract, I am giving away a 8x10 of one of my most popular photographs ever... Luke in the Rain. It is even autographed by Luke Kuechly himself and framed under glass. This belongs in the collection of any die hard Panthers fan. It cannot be purchased in stores or anywhere else. How to enter: 1. You must be a registered Huddle member and post in this topic your adoration for Luke in what ever way you like and how often you like (actual posts, abuses of this rule may disqualify you). You can register instantly for free here. 2. You must follow @CarolinaHuddle on Twitter. (please include your twitter handle in your post within this topic) Thats it! Do both those things and you are entered to win this one of a kind prize. Sammi Jo will be picking a random post number from this topic out of a hat on an upcoming Huddle Podcast episode. If a number is chosen and the author is not a twitter follower of @CarolinaHuddle we move on to the next drawn number. God Bless, and Good Luke!
  7. 12 points
    Friends, Foes, Huddlers,,, It is that time one again that I bring to you the State of the Panthers. After much introspection and meditation, I have come to a conclusion. 2011 will be Avenged. Ron Rivera now in his second season as head coach has his philosophy in place. With emphasis on team play and a decrease of individualism, he has assembled his squad of heroes. Rivera is by nature a disciplinarian, but this one time grid-iron hero was known for his fury. Rivera expects nothing less than a playoff berth, anything else will be a failure. Leading the offense we find a super soldier of sorts, Cam Newton. His physical abilities are far beyond anything we have seen on the football field. He can do things other QB's only dream of. Once doubted and belittled as a gimmick, he has since proven to be a true leader. In fact, you can call him Cap. Joining Newton on the offense is a player ready to take the next step. Ready to dominate all that block his path to greatness. A mammoth of a man, with blonde locks that flow like honey, no homo. Greg Olsen will have a huge season this year. Rivera recently has stated as much. He didn't throw the gauntlet. He dropped the hammer. The offense will be great. But this season they will have help from the defense. The biggest improvement will come from the linebacking corps. First round selection Luke Kuechly has the speed, brawn, and intelligence to become an All-Pro in this league. Kuechly has already dazzled us all preseason, and he is just getting warmed up. Although he resembles the man of Steel, I like to think he is made of iron. After a year hiatus, Jon Beason is rejoining the defense and will return to his pro bowl form. He looks more conditioned and in better shape than I have ever seen him. Beason is also one of the most intelligent and charismatic players in the NFL, but make him angry and you may see a whole other side of him. A side that makes opposing offenses crap their collective pants. Many of you call him Beast... but Hulk may be more fitting. Beason Smash. Friends, I have crunched the numbers. I say to you now I have taken all things Carolina Panthers and have come to a conclusion. All signs point to a Marvel of a Season. Buy your tickets, secure your Lazyboy, fire up the grill and lets get it on. Ish is about to get real. Record Prediction = 13-3 /drops microphone
  8. 11 points
    In the first open media OTA session of 2015 my main objective was to get a real glimpse of how the Carolina Panthers receiving corps were shaping up. With Kelvin Benjamin out with injury and rookie Devin Funchess out of town, there was a real opportunity to see which players would step up and make a case for themselves as that second or third option. Those two receivers today were Corey Brown and Stephen Hill. As the practice started, I became a bit concerned about the level of play from the receivers. Stephen Hill had an easy drop early in drills, and Corey Brown slipped a couple of times mid route. Brenton Bersin, Jarrett Boykin also had drops on well thrown balls. I started to wonder if the Panthers were in for a tough day without Kelvin and Devin. Then a funny thing happened, team drills began (no photography permitted) and Stephen and Corey started making play after play. First, Stephen Hill hauled in a long bomb from Derek Anderson over Josh Norman on a seam route. Once Hill got behind Norman he used his length to grab the ball. Norman was turned in the air, unable to make the play on the ball, and a Stephen Hill touchdown was the result. Immediately after Cam Newton ran onto the field, whooping and hollering as if he was the one that threw the touchdown. Cam's excitement was undeniable. Later, Hill got a chance to catch a few from Newton and hauled in a couple of nice catches and an additional touchdown. I noticed a nice chemistry Cam and Hill seem to be developing. I get the feeling he is as excited about the potential of Stephen Hill as anyone. Next, Philly Brown took the stage with the first string. Cam connected with Brown for two touchdowns before the drill was over. Brown doesn't look a little faster than last season, he looks much faster than last season. I asked him about that after practice... Philly is absolutely right when he says speed isn't everything. Stephen Hill has had speed his entire career, but has been unable to make an impact in the NFL. But if today's practice is any indication whatsoever, both of these players could push Ted Ginn or Jerricho Cotchery down the depth chart. It will be interesting to see how the veterans respond next week. More photos and observations coming in the coming hours/days.
  9. 10 points
    The Carolina Panthers opened up an additional day for media, which came as a nice surprise this morning. So I rearranged my schedule and headed to Biggs Camera for my gear. Those guys are so awesome they are providing me with equipment this season so that I can bring these images to you. Having them in my corner this year is a load off my mind in terms of equipment. So make sure you show them some love if you are in Charlotte and in need of camera gear or prints. They are good people. Charles Johnson was showing off some nice kicks and a new haircut today. Kelvin Benjamin and Bene Benwikere again were limited in their practice involvement. I spoke to Bene after practice. He is feeling good and should return as soon as tomorrow possibly. After practice coach Rivera mentioned Kelvin also may return. Just because Kelvin is limited in team drills doesn't mean he is taking it easy. He spent a lot of time with the ball machine, catching pass after pass. He seems more aggravated by not being able to participate on the field than by a nagging hamstring. Earlier this year on the Huddle Podcast, Josh Norman expressed how important veteran safety Roman Harper is to the defensive backs. Norman sees Harper as kind of an older wiser brother and credits Harper as a source for knowledge. It is obvious on the field that these two have a mutual respect and fondness for one another which is great to see. Clemson product Garry Peters was a highly ranked UDFA, but he hasn't managed to see the field yet. He spent the day with the trainers again, trying to get his legs healthy. This is not the position a UDFA rookie wants to be in, especially with how competitive the cornerback position is this season. During offensive line drills, Andrew Norwell looked like, well, Andrew Norwell. Taking everything deadly serious as if it were a gameday situation, and bringing that mean streak we all have grown to love. A source within the organization has told me Norwell looks like a 10 year starter for the Panthers. Cam again looked sharp today, and not just because of the highlighter green shirt. He continued to have plenty of zip on the ball and precision accuracy. - Player of the Day: Greg Olsen. Olsen hauled in three touchdowns while making the Panthers safeties look less than stellar. The Cam to Olsen connection was nearly unstoppable today. - Rookie receiver Damiere Byrd closed out practice with a long bomb touchdown again today. Once he gets behind a defender, there is little chance of catching him. - Jarrett Boykin had another rough day today, dropping a touchdown pass in the red zone. Boykin had both hands on the ball, but just could not hold on. - The Panthers changed up the offensive line a bit today. Mike Remmers spent some time at center, and Martin Wallace got a few snaps with the second team at left tackle. - The scary moment of the day was a bad communication on the offensive line that put Michael Oher far out of place and a leaving Mario Addison untouched as he got to Cam Newton. Of course, Addison did not touch Cam, but if it was an actual game Cam would be at serious risk. - Frank Alexander spent the most time at left defensive end with Charles Johnson still on the right. Thats all for general observations. I will have more specific observations about players and units in the coming hours and days. As always, I will be having extended coverage including photos and observations in the All-Pro section of the Huddle. If you are a huddle regular and enjoy what I provide here, I encourage you to sign up and help keep it going.
  10. 9 points
    Jared Allen made his Carolina Panthers practice debut today and was welcomed by the heat and humidity the south offers in September. Ron Rivera spent a good amount of time watching his new acquisition, and I have a feeling he was pretty impressed. Allen is a physical specimen, that much is clear. He should immediately have an impact for the Panthers this Sunday against the Bucs. What I was not expecting was how quickly Allen seems to have taken up the leadership and mentor role left vacant by Charles Johnson (now on IR). Allen was especially talkative and demonstrative with both Mario Addison and Wes Horton. Throughout practice, Allen would stop and chat or demonstrate a move of the hips or perhaps a hand movement. The little things that can turn an average defensive end into a good one. After the media portion of practice, the Panthers defensive coaching staff seemed more than pleased with their new weapon.
  11. 9 points
    Last year fellow Huddler Michael Pritchard contacted me and asked me for a favor. His son, Jake, was the honorary captain of the game and was invited to join the Panthers players on the field for the coin toss. I am not an official NFL photographer, so I am not allowed on the actual playing field, but I promised to do my best. Sometimes it is difficult to see what is happening at mid field due to video and still camera crews. Thankfully, I was able to capture the moment Jake looked back to the sidelines. Of course, Jake makes this photo. His coolness and smile are all that is needed. I just pressed the shutter button. I also like the fact that Cam is playing guardian of the young captain. Jake was diagnosed with Duchenne muscular dystrophy, which is the most common fatal genetic disorder diagnosed in childhood, affecting approximately 1 in every 3,500 live male births (about 20,000 new cases each year). Because the Duchenne gene is found on the X-chromosome, it primarily affects boys; however, it occurs across all races and cultures. (source). It was Jake's fighting spirit that was needed on the field against Cleveland and most certainly contributed to the Panthers victory. Some time after the game, I shot the hi-res file over to Michael to have printed. They hung it up in their house and named it "The Captains", which is insanely awesome. I can tell you that of all the photos I have ever taken at a Panthers game, this one is by far the most endearing to me. You the man Jake! You can read more about Duchenne here -> LINK You can donate to their cause here -> LINK #KEEPPOUNDING
  12. 8 points
    Fact: Odell Beckham Jr's actions on the playing field, particularly his helmet to helmet hit on Josh Norman, was about the dirtiest thing you will ever see on the football field. Fact: The Giants are now throwing everything they possibly can at the problem to help minimize the damage done to Beckham Jr's reputation. On Monday, it was a silly baseball bat excuse. An excuse that was mostly laughed at nationally. As if anyone believed for a second OBJ felt threatened by a bat on the sidelines. If he was threatened by it, he made no mention of it in the post game interviews. It only came up well after he was caught, dead to rights, spearing Josh Norman in the helmet while Norman was not looking. This move earned OBJ a one game suspension, but should have been more. Now it is Tuesday, and the Giants are aware the silly bat excuse didn't stick. They need a new reason why the face of their franchise and their number 1 selling jersey would do such a thing. A-Ha! Odell Beckham Jr was called mean names during the game. Names that referred to his sexual orientation. That is why he threw punches. That is why he tried to injure Josh Norman by spearing him in the head. He was bullied! That's the ticket! Lets get on this anti-bullying campaign train and ride this thing out. The problem here is that every week in every game, names are being called. I have been on the sidelines for nearly a hundred times now, and I don't even notice anymore. It is part of the game in any professional sport. Get in the head of your opponent. Take him out of the game mentally. I don't know if names were called in OBJ's direction. Heck, I would be shocked if they weren't. I would be shocked if the Giants didn't yell names and expletives as as well. I would be shocked if this didn't happen on any given Sunday on any football field across the nation. But I do know one thing, I have never seen it used as an excuse, before now, to intentionally try to injure another player. If Odell Beckham Jr felt so torn over the alleged names called, would he have hugged multiple Panthers defensive players after the game? Shaq Thompson, Roman Harper, Luke Keuchly to name a few. Would he have snuck in a pinch on Cam Newton's rear during Newton's on camera interview after the game, trying to get a reaction from Newton? I was standing behind Newton and witnessed it myself and thought nothing of it. Last week Mike Tolbert smacked Cam Newton's rear during an interview and got a hilarious reaction. No big deal. These actions don't sound like those of a man supremely offended by what was said on the playing field. They sound like business as usual. Things are said on the field, and after the game everyone understands that what is said on the field is business. So here is the bottom line.... In their attempt to skirt blame and redirect negativity, Odell Beckham Jr and the Giants organization set an even worse example to their fans and continue to make this a national news story. The right move would have been to accept responsibility, accept punishment, and apologize gracefully so that we could all move on to next Sunday. THAT would have been the right way to minimize the damage done to OBJ's image. People are always willing to forgive someone who is honest and sincere. Clearly, Odell Beckham Jr is neither of these things.
  13. 8 points
    I have no doubt you have heard about the punches thrown at practice today, so here are the other things you need to know about today's Panthers practice. Kelvin Benjamin sat out most of practice due to a hamstring pull. This is not the same hamstring that kept him from participating two weeks ago. Shaq Thompson saw increased time with the first string defense today. It may just be a matter of time.... Coleman and Boston again saw many snaps as the starting safeties. The play of the day belonged to Brenton Bersin, who hauled in a beautiful back of the end zone touchdown over Tre Boston from Cam Newton. This earned some celebration and a jumping chest bump from Cam Newton. Bersin continued to score two additional touchdowns. He is my player of the day. Corey Brown had a bit of an off day today, dropping two "would be" touchdowns. Stephen Hill dropped a corner of the end zone touchdown, broken up by Carrington Byndom. But on the very next play followed through with a catch. Jordan Todman took first string kickoff returns. Tedd Ginn took the second reps. Todman is extremely shifty on screens out of the backfield. He may displace another running back on this team's roster. Colin Jones continues to make impressive plays on the ball, two near interceptions today. Dean Marlowe had a nice day today and could push for the starting free safety spot. He had a key breakup on an end zone pass.
  14. 7 points
    Kelvin Benjamin provided the most exciting play of the day in the form of a long bomb touchdown over safety Tre Boston. Here is how it happened in photos.... Kelvin broke free as Derek Anderson hit him perfectly in stride... Jordan Todman celebrated as Kelvin eyed the end zone and Boston slowed his pursuit, knowing Kelvin was out of reach. Kelvin then greeted some children at the fence who were yelling for him, and move that absolutely made their day. Corey Brown and Jordan Todman celebrated with Benjamin. Cam Newton hurried over and urged Kelvin to toss the football to the kids. Benjamin tossed the football in a basketball shooting motion to the fans and went back to the sidelines. I realize as readers you may be getting a bit tired of hearing about Kelvin Benjamin highlights. But, in another otherwise mediocre offensive day, you should be thrilled that Benjamin continues to produce.
  15. 6 points
    "Swiss Army Knife" is the most overused cliche in the NFL. It's a trope that's somehow more annoying than the word "moxie" and the use of the word "sky" as a verb. It's an evocative term, though, meant to denote a player who fits multiple modes of play and can be flexed into various positions (our own Joe Webb is an example, as backup quarterback, special teams coverage guy, wide receiver, and kick returner.) Another example is Kurt Coleman. Over the summer I highlighted trending changes in personnel archetypes at the nickel back position, noting that the rise of plesiosaur-sized football players in the slot receiver position (e.g. Gronkowski) has demanded larger, more physical players at nickel. Many teams have responded by looking for more athletic safeties, guys who can either be flexed onto the field as third safeties (the "Buffalo Nickel") or to match up against larger, more athletic players in man coverage with regular two-safety packages. Dave Gettleman recognized this in the offseason and, trying to improve a pass defense ranked outside the top ten, brought in Coleman, a 6th-year veteran who played with Philadelphia but lost his job with the departure of Andy Reid (new defensive coordinator Bill Davis declined to resign him when retooling the 3-4 scheme.) At Carolina he quickly beat out Tre Boston for the starting job at free safety, proving significantly better in pass coverage. A free safety who's lethal in run defense is a huge advantage for defensive backfields, and that's precisely why he's so valuable. Coleman's versatility gives McDermott the ability to play him in multiple roles. This makes him instrumental in disguising coverages. A prime example is the first quarter play against the Buccaneers last week that ended in a Josh Norman interception return for a touchdown. Here Tampa Bay lines up with a 3WR 1TE set. The Panthers are in the nickel defense. Kurt Coleman is the free safety, highlighted near the bottom of the field. As Jameis Winston makes his pre-snap reads, Kurt Coleman moves down close to the line of scrimmage: When the free safety drops into the box - usually that's an assignment for the strong safety, in run support - it's often an indication that the defense is in man coverage. Coleman's presence near the linebackers indicates his assignment is the running back, leaving Tillman on an island against Mike Evans. This could mean either Klein or Davis are blitzing or spying, or Klein's man is Louis Murphy, lined up directly across from the right guard. Let's look at the play call: As you can see above, Mike Evans - at the bottom of your screen - is running a slant. At the top of your screen Vincent Jackson is running an inside hitch, TE Brandon Myers an out route, and Louis Murphy is running up the seam on a deep post. This play design looks like it will be get several guys open if this is man coverage, since Murphy is a speedster and can easily run past Harper even if Davis is bracketing him. But notice how Coleman backpedals right before the snap. He's dropping into coverage. He may be staying inside that slant. Possibly recognizing this, Jameis Winston never even looks his way. Look at the right side of the field, where Winston immediately turns: If this is man coverage - and Winston probably thinks it is - then Jackson takes Norman out of the play, and Murphy takes Klein out of the play. This leaves Brandon Myers with inside leverage on the nickel, Benwikere. Myers will run into a zone cleared out by the receivers. With an easy first down in mind, Winston targets Myers. BUT WAIT! THEY'RE IN ZONE! Kurt Coleman was just pretending to cover the back! Brandon Myers is in Josh Norman's zone! Josh Norman sees him! We all know how this ends. There you have it. A critical turnover and scoring play against a division rival, made possible largely by Kurt Coleman's versatility as a safety. His ability to handle the responsibilities of a strong safety while actually playing free safety has allowed McDermott to move him around the field and confuse young players like Jameis Winston. Incidentally his presence given a marginal pass rush more time to get to the quarterback and helped keep offenses from isolating Roman Harper on plays. As the resident Swiss Army Knife, Kurt Coleman is a substantial piece of the puzzle, and one of the reasons the Carolina Panthers are 4-0. A final note on defense. Good safety play is always better safety play when you've got a pass rush. A good pass rush is always a better pass rush when you have a actual animals on your defensive line. Can you tell the difference between these hungry lions and newcomer Ryan Delaire? I sure can't. In a week and a half the Seahawks get to find out in person.
  16. 6 points
    Longtime visitors of the Huddle know how big I am on Ricky Proehl as a wide receivers coach. Over the past few seasons I have seen Proehl take a hands on approach to his guys and use his experience as a NFL player to teach the finer points of the position. Today was a good example of that. Ricky played defensive back as receivers practiced a curl with an ever so slight push off in the end zone. The kind of push off that gets six points, not a flag. Arms not extending fully, all well and good in the eyes of the NFL refs. Proehl provides a luxury for the Panthers at receivers coach that may allow them to need less of a veteran presence this year. Aside from looking like he could still suit up and contribute on the field, his real world knowledge of the game from having been there is just invaluable to this franchise.
  17. 6 points
    Next to the wide receiver position, the Carolina Panthers running backs may have the most competition to deal with this offseason as any other unit. This year's Panthers edition of runners are a close knit group, possibly closer than years past. Over the past few months I have been wondering if the departure of Deangelo Williams would have a negative effect on the chemistry of the runners group. To my eyes the opposite is true. The players are more upbeat and eager to work than ever before. My article about Mike Tolbert playing quarterback recently highlights this. If you ever have been in an office where someone was not happy with the company, you know what effect it can have on morale. Why should this be any different in football? Individually, here is how things are shaping up for the ball carriers.... Jonathan Stewart - Obviously first string, but the news is here he appears to be in great health. Mike Tolbert - Technically a fullback, but more of a utility runner. I will list him here. Has seen plenty of reps with first and second string. Looks good. Fozzy Whitaker - First and second team snaps mainly. Appears to have a firm hold on the changeup back position. Others will need to push him in camp. Jordan Todman - Has shown flashes. Super quick and can change direction in an instant. Has been increasing his reps through OTAs. Darrin Reaves - Last year's UDFA that actually started a game is still in the hunt for a roster spot. Don't count him out. Cameron Artis-Payne - This year's draft pick has seen snaps with the second and third strings mainly. Will need to prove pass protection ability before he moves up. Brandon Wegher - Third teams snaps. Looks the part, pass catching ability could be an issue. Has his work cut out for him trying to move up the chart. The Panthers will typically keep three running backs on the roster and one on the practice squad. That means there are three positions for 6 players. (Assuming Mike Tolbert is listed as a FB again) Jonathan Stewart is a lock. He isn't going anywhere. Can you see Panthers GM Dave Gettleman placing another late round running back out on waivers again after losing Tyler Gafney last year in the same manner? No, me neither. Cameron Artis-Payne is a lock as well. That leaves Todman, Whitaker, Reaves, and Wegher to fight it out for one roster spot and one practice squad spot. Todman as a fourth year vet and more than two accrued seasons is the only one of these ball carriers that is not eligible for the practice squad. Throw in the fact that he is a special teams kick returner, and you can see there is a very strong case for not releasing him. Whitaker is practice squad eligible, but would possibly be a target of other teams if placed on waivers. He is also a favorite in the locker room. A chemistry guy. Reaves, also practice squad eligible, may be the odd man out here just based on the numbers. Wegher has a lot of challenges ahead to be considered for the practice squad, but the potential is there. Wegher was mentioned by Ron Rivera specifically after training camp as a stand out player. Overall, this is one of those cases that will be difficult for the coaching staff. All of these guys are well liked and have potential. Releasing any of them won't be easy. But, as the Carolina Panthers improve, cutting good players in favor of great players is a sign of improvement in overall team talent, and that isn't a bad thing.
  18. 6 points
    From the looks of things on the Huddle as of late, I feel an intervention is needed. Today I actually read a theory that GM David Gettleman is actually purposefully sabotaging the team. It is official - the Huddle has lost its mind. Let us take a step back from the conspiracy theories, conjecture, and embellishment. There seems to be three main areas of concern, I will address them individually. Myth #1 – The Panthers have no offensive line. Status: FALSE The Panthers currently have 4 of the 5 starting offensive lineman that the Panthers started training camp with last season. The retirement of Jordan Gross being the only change. Bell, Silotolu, Kalil, Williams, all remain on the roster. The sudden rash of retirements like Jeff Byers and Geoff Hangartner weren't a shock, in fact, they retired because they knew they would not be on the Panthers roster again. The loss of Jordan Gross is significant, but it isn't the end of the world. His play was no longer elite, but above average. Finding an above average left tackle is not an impossible task for David Gettleman considering it is only March. The bigger concern is the leadership on the line that will need filled. I believe Ryan Kalil is more than ready to step in. Myth #2 – The Panthers have cut all of their wide receivers and are ignoring that need. Status: FALSE The 2013 Panthers wide receivers corps were less than stellar, to put it nicely. One good indication of such is TE Greg Olsen, who remains on the roster, was the leading receiver. Thats right, the Panthers leading receiver is still on the roster. Say that over and over again until you feel better. Steve Smith's release, while heartbreaking and handled terribly, was necessary. Receivers decline quickly when in their mid 30s, and Steve had shown signs of such two years ago. Allowing his contract to continue another year would have made it more difficult to sign core young players all while not guaranteeing an adequate return on investment this season. Gettleman made a tough call, but it was the correct one. Ted Ginn was exciting to watch, but fans forget the many drops he had that could have gone for long gains. Panthers fans are so thirsty for even average wide receiver play they forget what good receiver play looks like. I would be all in favor for keeping Ginn at a low price, but he is now being over paid in Arizona. You can't fault Gettleman for that. Brandon Lafell? He may be back. The fact that no one else in the league is even interested tells you all you need to know. Vet minimum? Yep. All in all, it won't be difficult for Gettleman to match the production of the 2013 wide receivers in 2014. Why? Because there isn't much production to match. Myth #3 – The loss of Mike Mitchell and Captain Munnerlyn is devastating. Satus: FALSE I like Mike Mitchell. I think he is a fine safety. I also think Pittsburgh is going to be very disappointed in the return they get for their high dollar investment in him. Without the Panthers stellar front seven, Mitchell will be an average safety for them making above average money. The Panthers were please with Robert Lester last season and still have Charles Godfrey under contract. Panthers fans have yet to see how Godfrey performs when the Panthers have featured their current front 7. My guess is he will benefit as much as Mike Mitchell did, maybe even more. We could see Godfrey rise to a new level. Captain Munnerlyn is an average corner at best, and maybe an above average nickel. He was a liability last season on many downs, most notably against San Francisco. Melvin White and Josh Thomas both will play at a higher level than Munnerlyn in 2014, and at a smaller price tag. So sit back, take a deep breath, and relax. Dave's got this.
  19. 5 points
    Six weeks ago we visited the immortal fate of Sisyphus, Greek king damned to a fate of eternally rolling a boulder up a hill, only to have it roll back down right when it reached the top. The folks over at Existential Comics did a nice job with it (it's a lot funnier now that we've pushed that boulder over the crest with the downfall of the Seattle Seahawks.) But alas, as is the case with any franchise plagued by long periods of mediocrity, we still have lots of mileage to get out of the Sisyphean analogy. If Sisyphus is Panthers, and the boulder an NFL team, there is perhaps no candidate more appropriate than the Dallas Cowboys. This is a matchup that reflexively triggers bad tastes in the mouths of Carolina fans at its mere mention, tapping into a frustrating legacy of bad teams caught at bad times and good teams caught at bad times and good teams at good times caught by bad referees. That cursed boulder has been tumbling backwards for as long as any of us can remember. With Thanksgiving a scant three days away, and an impending matchup that invokes ineffable angst deep in the stomach pits of all Panthers fans, I've decided to assemble an abbreviated history of the Carolina-Dallas matchups. It's abbreviated because I've marked 2005 as the genesis of Sisyphean tendencies; it's latter-day Cowboys games that've proved so maddening. Five games punctuate our history, each more gut-wrenchingly infuriating than the last. Let's have a look. 2005 (L 20-24) With ten years of hindsight a lot of people point to this as the greatest Panthers offense of all time. Jake Delhomme had come off a career year in 2004 and extended it with Steve Smith's triple crown season. The team rolled into this late-season game with a 10-4 record, a game ahead of the Bucs for first place in a highly competitive NFCS. Winning this game and then beating the hapless Falcons would seal the division and leave the Panthers with a first-round bye. Needless to say, this would be a bad contest to drop. Two terrible things happened in this game. Midway through the third quarter Terrance Newman hit Steve Smith out of bounds, and Smith ran up to a ref to (rightly) complain about the no-call. He committed the cardinal sin of touching that ref and was promptly flagged for unsportsmanlike conduct and ejected. Smith was livid. Fox was livid. Delhomme was livid. I was livid, I almost died. But Delhomme threw the game on his back, marched down in the fourth quarter in response, and threw a touchdown to Ricky Proehl for a late three-point lead. Here Sisyphus surfaced for the first time. With their final possession the Cowboys marched down the field and lined up for what would be a game-tying field goal, leaving Carolina three minutes on the clock to go grab a game-winner. Julius Peppers and Ken Lucas miraculously blocked it - and then were famously flagged for roughing the kicker. It was the worst single-play ref job in Panthers history. "I definitely touched the ball, both me and God know it," Lucas said about the play, after Drew Bledsoe, given a new set of downs, tossed the game-winning touchdown. God, Ken Lucas, and all of us know this atrocious call kicked off a full decade of equally atrocious Panthers-Cowboys matchups. 2006 (L 14-35) This season was a disappointment from the start, so a screw job in a Cowboys game was a natural fit on the menu. Keyshawn Johnson was supposed to be the key free agent that would put the Panthers over the top, but the first two games quickly upended those expectations. Two crushing losses followed by a narrow win over the Buccaneers summed up that season. It was up and down all year. Dallas rolled into town to face a 4-3 squad that might actually be the streakiest team in Panthers history. Sometimes brilliant, sometimes atrocious, this game was a microcosm of that season. The offense scored early, the defense forced a turnover, and then a Steve Smith rushing touchdown made it 14-0 Panthers. But Dallas went on to score 35 unanswered points, led by a young undrafted free agent named Tony Romo. A deplorable defensive secondary (that day) and an anemic passing attack (supplemented by referees refusing to call flagrant holds on Julius Peppers for four quarters, rendering him sackless on the day) contributed to another crushing loss. A win here would've put a 9-7 Panthers team in the playoffs. Instead it was another moribund 8-8 John Fox season, on the bright brink of vitality but, as usual, only grazing it. 2007 (L 13-20) Miracles do happen. The Panthers beat an outstanding Seattle Seahawks squad at home in week fifteen, only allowing a touchdown in the final seconds when Quinton Teal or somebody went for the interception instead of just batting it down. This was a tremendous upset, and it placed the Matt Moore-led Panthers at 6-8, mathematically still alive for the playoffs. Winning out - with some help - could land the Panthers a wild card spot. Just gotta beat Dallas on that newfangled Saturday Night Football thing! This game was fairly unremarkable. Both teams traded momentum all night, though the Panthers never led. They stayed in it the whole game, though, answering every Cowboys score with one of their own, and halfway into the fourth quarter a gorgeous Thomas Davis interception put the Panthers one score away from tying it up. Wunderkind quarterback Matt Moore got the ball back with a chance to go win the ballgame on national television, and began a march down the field. Never in my life will I forget watching Drew Carter run his route up the middle of the field on 3rd and 8, beating linebacker Jacques Reeves, who then proceeded to cling to him like superman's cape for the next eight yards while a perfectly-placed ball dropped into Carter's molested, premature-tackle-contorted body. No flag. Unforgivably terrible no-call; there was no subjectivity involved. It was a flagrant pass interference in front of two referees, uncalled. Carolina punted, gave up a field goal, and lost the game. Jobbed. 2009 (L 7-21) Tony Fiammetta was drafted this year in hopes of developing the world's best running attack. It was largely a success, but in true fashion general manager Marty Hurney ignored gaping needs elsewhere. The Panthers went into week three with Nick Hayden and Everette Brown as mainstays on the defensive line with two ugly losses under their belts. This year was a harbinger of horrors to come in the following one, and the Cowboys provided the salt in the opening wound. As one of the league's best running teams that year (remember Marion Barber, Tashard Choice, and Felix Jones back when that three-headed-monster thing was in vogue?) they were able to consistently punch it past Hayden, Damione Lewis, and the rest of that recalcitrantly inept defensive front seven (Beason was still Beason, but consistently marginalized by upfield blockers all year.) With the score 7-3 in the Panthers' favor midway through the third quarter (it one of the few good defensive games that squad put together) Jake Delhomme's dying arm lobbed a deep ball for Muhsin Muhammed, who caught it for a deep touchdown, the big-play game-breaker Carolina desperately needed. Then the refs called it back for a ticky-tack offensive pass interference call at odds with the tenor they'd set for officiating all game. It led to a Carolina punt, a Dallas field goal, and then Jake Delhomme's dying arm's game-losing pick-six. So it goes. 2012 (L 14-19) Maybe it's just because it's lodged in recent memory, but this game might actually have been the most maddening of the five. Keep in mind the 2012 season was maddening to begin with; the Panthers had seen Chudzinski's offense crumble in the season opener and enjoyed one win over the Saints before being humbled by a home drubbing by the Giants, a certain Haruki Nakamura play, and another loss to the Seahawks. They went into their bye 1-4 and came out of it facing the Dallas Cowboys. This game was strange to watch because familiar icons like Cam and Luke were surrounded by people that seem like ancient history. Louis Murphy, James Anderson, ol' Bullethead. It was strange to watch plays that I've seen the Panthers succeed on a thousand times over this season, but absolutely fell apart in that year. This Cowboys game was no exception. It was maddening. I know, I was there with my pregnant wife trying not to jostle her while I flailed with rage. Score-wise the game wasn't so bad. Tolbert grabbed the lead on a goal-line thrust part way through the fourth, putting the Panthers up by a point. But, characteristically, officiating knocked it out of reach. Two calls in particular were unforgivably bad: a no-call on blatant fourth-down DPI that left Louis Murphy and the entire stadium insane with fury and the Cowboys with great field position, and then immediately after that a phantom horse collar tackle on James Anderson that showed up on the replay as a perfectly legal tackle nowhere near the horse collar. Both were crucial, game-deciding calls by an arbitration crew expected not to affect the outcome of a game. Perhaps more than in any other Panthers game they failed, and Dallas walked away with a win, sending the Panthers packing to Chicago at a lowly 1-5. It may have been the worst loss of the season. Sisyphus takes many forms. So what do we make of this Sisyphean trend? French existential philosopher Albert Camus has his own take on it. Opposing many philosophers who suggested that a true embracing of the absurdity of Sisyphean life is suicide, Camus proposed that the only true response is revolt. Weave your meaning through struggle. Throw down the iron chains of nihilism and an ever-plunging boulder and wrestle that son of a bitch to the top. Camus was onto something; while plenty of us have considered suicide after watching the last five Cowboys matchups, it's in the spirit of the 2015 Carolina Panthers to revolt. They've done it all year, pushed that boulder upward with single-minded determination. How, exactly: They can revolt by taking down a mid-tier Cowboys secondary forced to start rookie free safety Byron Jones in place of injured CB Morris Claiborne. The Dolphins beat him like a drum all day. They can revolt by stifling a suddenly vulnerable-looking Cowboys offensive line that consists of Doug Free struggling against speed rushers and interior guards susceptible to talented, stunting under tackles (like Kawann Short.) They can revolt by frustrating an incredibly emotional Dez Bryant into making stupid, game-losing plays (or lack of plays entirely.) They can revolt by forcing Tony Romo into impressively desperate throws that invariably turn into picks, as happened multiple times against the Dolphins. They can revolt by grinding out tough ground yards against a Cowboys defensive line susceptible to undisciplined run defense, poor contain, and consistently leaving gaping holes between guard and tackle. They can revolt by punching Dallas in the mouth, and, collectively, punching the throats of every mealy-mouthed pundit, informationless fan, wheedling bookie, and narrative-driven columnist calling for a "juggernaut" 3-7 Cowboys team to ruin the season of the most overrated 10-0 team in existence. So get out the turkey and pop open some cranberry sauce: in three days' time we'll have a new page in the abbreviated history of the Panthers and Cowboys. It'll begin - and end - with revolt.
  20. 5 points
    Approximately 2.5 million years ago a major shift occurred among earth's proto-human species. Up until that point, the most advanced form of primates were Australopithecines. Large and robust, they employed arboreal physical features to forage in the trees and, to a limited extent, the ability to walk upright to gather food and hunt game. But fossil evidence shows a sudden explosion in ability and habit, the result of which is the relatively quick emergence of a new species - Homo habilis. Marked by an increased brain-mass-to-body-size ratio and the first recorded use of tools, H. habilis is roundly agreed upon as beginnings of something new, something almost human. Much debate circles around the process of becoming human. Most of it has focused on key foods that allowed for evolutionary selection and adaptation to acquiring it; the most notorious one is the idea that hunting vertebrates was the trigger for the explosion of human traits. The model goes like this: Meat is an incredibly valuable part of the diet; Individuals best equipped to hunt meat are those that can stand tallest and walk the longest distances; Individuals that can stand the tallest and walk the longest distances breed more, and nature selects for those traits; Thus, populations gradually become better equipped to hunt. This model is generally accepted. Using it as a base, others hypothesize that, for instance, the invention of fire and cooking led to the formation of social solidarity, male-female pair bonds, and even language; those are, of course, heavily debatable. But the above model endures, and can be summed up as follows: Adapt to your ecological niche or you're dead. The same is also true in football. Scientists confirm Andrew Luck is the closest living relative of H. habilis Much like the survival of a species is dependent on its ability to adapt to the often-changing environment around it, offensive coordinators in the NFL must act and react according to defensive situations and gameplans, both in the short term (in individual games) and the long term (throughout the course of the season, or several seasons.) Our own Mike Shula remains enigmatic precisely because his apparent short-term flaws must be weighed against what appear to be long-term adaptive strengths. Let's break them down. Short-term Shula Last week the Titans came in with a very specific game plan: make up for the injury-wracked cornerback position by sending blitzers on nearly every down. It was a very good plan, actually, taking advantage of an extremely underrated defensive line able to hold gaps well enough allow linebackers through. In fact, if it wasn't for several defensive gaffes (like playing unblitzed zone coverage against Greg Olsen) and a Carolina defensive line that controlled the line of scrimmage all day, Mularkey may have sent the Panthers packing with their first loss of the season. Mularkey's defense was relentless, and Mike Shula went three quarters without making adjustments to counter it. The obvious call for constant pressure is screens; you let the blitzers cross the line of scrimmage and then lob it over their heads into a convoy. If you don't do that you keep in extra guys to protect and release them upfield, or at least designate a hot receiver to occupy the vacated zone. Instead we saw this: Four go routes, developing at various phases twenty yards downfield, and what looks like a very deep, complex option break to the sideline by the tight end. No hot routes, no designated protection, all in the face of an incredibly obvious blitzing situation and three linebackers telegraphing the impending rush. The play, predictably, was a sack. The Titans tallied five of them on the day, and would've had more if not for Cam's escapability. Shula's adjustments did not come until midway through the first quarter when he called a smoke screen and a few complementary underneath routes. This kind of rigidity has been symptomatic of Shula's tenure as offensive coordinator, and an enduring criticism of his ability to adapt to defensive schemes in a timely manner. Long-term Shula Calls to unseat Mike Shula have been a constant since week four of the 2013 season. But 2015's 4th-ranked Panthers offense has critics doubting their own fiery prognostications, supporters crowing their final victory, and everyone else trying to figure out whether Cam's outstanding play is making Shula look good, vice versa, or a combination of the two. Whoever gets the credit, and however deficient he may be in game-time adjustments one thing is clear: Mike Shula has evolved. He has adjusted in two critical ways that have aided in the success of this year's offense. 1) He's given Cam options at the line. Much has been made in years past of Shula's inflexible play-calls; conversation has buzzed around microanalysis of Shula's off-the-cuff remarks about Cam's frustration at play calls. But around the beginning of this season we began seeing a much different dynamic: play calls coming in at a much faster rate, leaving time for on-field diagnosis. No longer does Cam walk up to the line with 0:04 on the play clock to point out the blitzing linebacker. Instead Shula gives Cam a predetermined suite of plays based on the defensive personnel that Cam can select based on the defensive alignment. Such an instance took place midway through the first quarter. In the following frame, the offense lines up with a play call that, based on the personnel, is probably something like the following. Notice Stewart shifting out to a slot position from the backfield. But Cam looks at the formation and immediately knows something's up. "No sir, this is some bullshit," he says, probably out loud, seeing defensive lineman standing up and linebackers clustered oddly and showing blitz. In past years the play clock would've been at zero already, so Cam would've had no choice but to snap the ball. Instead he walks up the the line and changes the play to another in the situational set. If those linebackers are blitzing, the standing lineman may be getting ready to drop into coverage, into the flats to ruin any dump-offs or into the middle of the field to jump any crossers. Cam approaches the formation and changes the play. Notice the MLB here changing the play as a result (or pretending to.) The new play retains the formation of the old one, but with new route combos. Most notable are Stewart and Dickson, who now stay in as blockers before releasing upfield as blitz outlets. Ed Dickson's spot keeps the SLB low and Philly Brown's route keeps the deep safety high, and the throw to Greg Olsen is predictably successful, for a critical first down. Carolina kept the momentum and went on to score. In years past, we may not have seen the offense have time to recover. 2) Shula has abandoned bad plays. This is his other adaptation, in the truest sense of the word. Behaviors that don't result in positive gain are selected against by nature and NFL front offices, and Shula has apparently felt the pressure. The Bersin-on-bubble-screens trope is a thing of the past. So are Cotchery's misfit go routes. Rather than forcing players into variable roles because of a philosophy, Shula has recognized weaknesses on the roster and instead adapted the personnel groups accordingly. John Fox made that precise error for the latter half of his tenure here; his failure to adapt was ultimately his downfall. Will Mike Shula's ability to adapt earn him staying power in the NFL? That remains to be seen. The good here doesn't necessarily mask the bad. But like Rivera, he is learning, adapting, changing in ways that make him and his team the most fit to sit at the top of the pile. Homo habilis' adaptation begat Homo erectus, which begat Homo neanderthalensis, which gave way to modern humans; is it too much to hope that it'll allow Shula and the Panthers to go 10-0?
  21. 5 points
    Truth be known, I actually like Packers fans. Typically they are some of the most pleasent and some of the more knowledgeable fans in the NFL. My trip to Green Bay last year left me with the most favorable impression of a franchise and their fan base of all away games (Philly being the opposite end of that spectrum). That said, they are next up on the Panthers revenge tour of 2015. Here is what the Packers fans are saying (Above quote is from a guy named "packerfanincarolina".) and from the Packer Chatters forum.... Sunday is going to be a tough game. If Ryan Kalil and Andrew Norwell can't play, the edge may go to the Packers. The Panthers will need to be able to constantly move the chains on offense and keep the defense rested. If not, you may see another 4th quarter letup from exhaustion by the defense again this week.
  22. 5 points
    In a good catch by Huddle Catman72 , last night's Thursday Night Football game gave us a quick peak into a new uniform color scheme the Panthers will be wearing on Thanksgiving Day against the Dallas Cowboys. The video, posted here in this thread , showed what clearly seems to be blue pants with grey and black accent design. What might that look like? Well, here is my 30 second photoshop attempt.... Not bad... Not bad at all. Update: During Thursday night football a couple of the Color Rush jerseys were reveled. Looked like the above image may not be far off at all. Might need to replace the black socks with blue ones however.
  23. 5 points
    After the Carolina Panthers preseason game on Sunday night, I took to the locker room to speak to two players I felt made a tremendous difference in the second half. Brandon Wegher and Lee Ward. Both hard nosed throwback runners. Both undrafted free agents. Both fighting tooth and nail for a Panthers jersey this season. These commonalities have allowed Wegher and Ward to develop a common purpose on the field and a friendship off of it. Wegher on Ward "He is a bulldozer man!" Wegher said with excitement. "Anytime he is in front of me I know I can follow him and we are going to pickup yards." Ward was seen on the field Friday night effectively blocking linebackers and even defensive ends. It was Ward's blocking that sprung Wegher free on more than one occasion. "Lee is a great player, great teammate, great friend" he added. Ward on Wegher "He is a great guy on and off the field. Probably my closest friend right now on the team. We have a strong chemistry on the field. He has had two great games in a row. I've enjoyed blocking for him and opening up holes for him." And on Wegher's future? "I think the sky is the limit with him. I think he is a starting running back in the NFL. You hear a lot of guys talk about how good he is as a running back, but they fail to mention he is a baller on special teams too. He is fast, he sheds blocks, he does it all." Ward understands it is a numbers game right now, and neither player is guaranteed a roster spot. It remains very unclear if both, or neither, will have a locker in Bank of America Stadium this season. "I'm excited to see what the future hold for both of us."
  24. 5 points
    During team drills today, Devin Funchess was struggling to get separation on routes in the corner of the end zone. When matched up against CB Carrington Byndom, Funchess was unable to make the play. Afterwards, Ricky Proehl pulled Funchess aside and gave him a little one on one coaching. Proehl used his elbow and forearm on Funchess to demonstrate a push off that will not draw a flag. Proehl's arm never extended (an extended arm on a receiver will usually draw a flag). Instead, there were quick sharp jabs with the forearm, enough to set a corner back off balance just enough to make a play. I have said it once, and I will continue saying it. Ricky Proehl is a real asset to the Carolina Panthers. You will not find a more hands on and knowledgeable wide receivers coach in the NFL. It is this type of coaching of the minor but important details of the position that sets him apart.
  25. 5 points
    Day 10 of Panthers training camp. It goes by quickly, doesn't it? Today's practice was very light, nothing ground breaking to report. I expect tomorrow's may be just a light in preparation for the first preseason game of the year at Buffalo on Friday. Cam Newton jogged onto the field quickly today, avoiding all media and fans. This was pretty much his strategy throughout the day, give the members of the press nothing to write about. I spotted Ted Ginn on the field giving Damiere Byrd some one on one instructions on punt returns. One had to wonder if Ted sees a little bit of himself in the young receiver. Cam Newton was all smiles while on the field. Neither he nor his teammates showed any sign that yesterday's altercation would be bleeding over into today. Coach Rivera and Luke Kuechly also seemed to be in great moods. The Cam/Kelvin/Devin exclusive club is still in tact. These three players meet on the opposite field to work on end zone plays at every practice. This is an exclusive drill, invitation only. Devin Funchess had one of his better days today, making several nice catches. Devin's progress has not been as quick as Kelvin's rookie year, but he has made progress, slowly but surely. Josh Norman made more plays on the football today, proving yesterday's news had no impact on his focus. Luke Kuechly was rather vocal at times in team drills, yelling plays and adjustments to his defensive players. Ed Dickson has had a few nice practices in a row now after a slow start. Dickson came on strong at the end of the year and was re-signed to another year this offseason. It looks like he may build on his late season momentum this fall. Daryl Williams continues to turn heads. He has looked as solid as any rookie lineman in recent memory. Assistant O-Line coach Ray Brown had a nice chuckle with Williams after practice. He is coming along just fine.
  26. 5 points
    The first string left tackle position is without a doubt the position with the most question marks surrounding it currently on the Panthers offense. With mixed reviews of Michael Oher and backup Nate Chandler, the Panthers could be searching for a long term answer. During Thursday's practice, the Panthers initially went with Amini Silatolu on the left side, but during the first string team drills toward the last part of practice we saw Daryl Williams anchoring the left side for the first time this training camp. Williams lines up at left tackle for seven plays against second year man Kony Ealy. Daryl has improved his foot work a great deal since the June OTA workouts. I did not see him cross his feet at all, a bad habit he had in June. Williams' shuffle was faster and he kept a wide, balanced base as he fended off Ealy almost effortlessly. In the end, Williams gave up no pressures and run blocked well in the seven opportunities he was given. Whether or not Williams continues to see time at left tackle once starter Michael Oher and backup Nate Chandler are in pads again remains to be seen. This could be just a case of the coaching staff wanting to see how the rookie adjusts on the left side safely, without bruising veteran egos. Williams did make the most of the opportunity, however. You cannot ask for more from a rookie.
  27. 5 points
    Tempers flared, plays were made, fun was had. All in all an exciting day at Panthers training camp. During warmups, I notice the audio guys were playing Bon Jovi. How would the team react? Well... Once stretching was over, individual drills began. Charles Johnson was practicing his hand placements and warding off offensive tackles. Johnson spends every single morning working on his hands. Younger defensive ends should take note. Panthers fullback Lee Ward was sporting a new bandage on his chin from Tuesday's scuffle. One drill that was on the itinerary this morning was forcing fumbles. Players would be directed to strip the ball from the carrier with a ripping action. Dean Marlowe had a solid day today. He is currently pressing Robert Lester for his position on the practice squad. Marlowe may have more upside than Lester. Mario Addison continues to impress. It seems to me he has built up more strength this offseason. If he can get stronger while maintaining that elite speed, he could be a real solution opposite Charles Johnson. That Devin Funchess vertical again.... Funchess shows solid concentration and control while playing. In end zone drills with Cam Newton and Kelvin Benjamin, Devin kept the ball in front of him and alive while making the grab. By now you may have heard of the scuffle that happened between defensive end Frank Alexander and guard Ricky Henry. Here are the pictures. Our training camp partner Black and Blue Review has the video available. The Panthers offense struggled again overall today. Cam Newton was either sacked or forced to scramble on a good number of snaps. This is starting to be a concern and brings back memories of last season. The offense needs better play selection with quicker developing routes along with better protection if it hopes to improve this season. Nate Chandler is seeing much more time at left tackle. He took more than a few snaps with the first team offense today. The Panthers could be looking at contingency plans if Oher continues to struggle. Chandler didn't look great, but he didn't look terrible either. He does look improved over last season. Lee Ward almost got into it again today, this time with linebacker Brian Belchen. After Ward placed a textbook block on Blechen, Blechen kept engaged even after the whistle. This time, Ward stood his ground, challenging Blechen who then backed off. Ward is not making any friends on the Panthers defense, and I am just fine with that. Other Notes: - Devin Funchess had a solid day today, hauling in numerous passes from Cam Newton and Derek Anderson. - Kelvin Benjamin also impressive still. Caught a nice reception in traffic while bodying out Josh Norman. - Kurt Coleman is looking more and more like a day 1 starter at strong safety. - Kony Ealy had a solid day, more on that later. More updates coming later today, stay tuned.
  28. 5 points
    Last season, then rookie Kelvin Benjamin was selected to get in special reps with Cam Newton away from the other players. Typically, they would go over end zone routes or fine tune a few things here or there. Well, that trend is happening again this year, but they have added one more participant. Devin Funchess During Saturday's training camp session, Kelvin and Devin joined Cam Newton on the opposite field to work together away from the rest of the team. They caught extra passes from Cam Newton while running various routes, and then spoke to Newton about them. Small adjustments were made, and the routes run again. During one of the drills, Funchess had a chance to show off his vertical while going for an overthrown ball. I found it fairly impressive. I realize this may not seem like much, but it could be early signs of a Kelvin/Devin duo taking over the receiving corps. Stay tuned.
  29. 5 points
    The Carolina Panthers offensive line depth chart has become a little more clear now that the OTA practices have come to an end and the Panthers Mini-Camp is set to begin. Here is how the depth chart is shaking out according to my eyes and notes... Left Tackle Michael Oher - Biggest question mark on the entire team. Jonathan Martin - Looking to revitalize his career Martin Wallace - Has earned a few second string reps David Foucault - On the bubble Right Tackle Mike Remmers - Has also spent limited reps at second string center) Daryl Williams (R) - Getting plenty of one on one coaching Nate Chandler - Chandler hasn't practiced, recovering from injury, slight speculation here. Left Guard Andrew Norwell - Future pro bowler? Amini Silatolu - Last year's starter Tyronne Green - 5th year journeyman our of Auburn, injury issues. Right Guard Trai Turner - Road grading guard Chris Scott - Appears to be in good shape, can also backup tackle position Jordan McCray - Tryout player looking for a chance Center Ryan Kalil - Leader of the offense. Brian Folkerts - Solid backup, used as TE on some rhino packages Ronald Patrick - South Carolina kid looking for a NFL home. Taking a quick glance of this lineup, it is easy even for the most casual fans to see a tremendous upgrade over the offensive line from this time last season. Three of the five starting offensive line positions have been upgraded tremendously (Remmers, Turner, Norwell) and the jury is still out on one position (Oher). The quality of depth found is also much improved with former starters moving back to backup positions where they probably should have been to begin with.
  30. 5 points
    Twas the night before Christmas and all through the land, The playoffs were coming, for each Panther fan. However unlikely they said this would be, The Panthers delivered, for you and for me. The journey was long, and not without struggle, There were plenty of doubters, over at Carolina Huddle. But the team was determined, and promised to fight, So that fans could rejoice, on this Christmas Eve night. But just how we got to this wonderful place, Is a story that puts a huge smile on my face. The NFC South, we were expected to lose, Good thing we don't care, about those point of views. It's the year of the Saints, said the man on TV They've got too much talent, who else could it be? Coach Payton was back, that's what they were lackin', But the experts forgot, Coach Ron has The Kraken. The showdown was set, for a little past noon, What they didn't expect? The Carolina monsoon. The torrential downpour was a nice surprise, And certainly helped with the Saintly demise. The Saints kicked the ball, and the Panthers received, The offense came out, and we all believed. DWill off tackle, that was the call. The crowd was electric, 'Get Smitty the ball!' But the offense soon stalled, this wasn't the plan. Not that it mattered, cause Kuechly's the man! He dashed and he darted, it was quite a sight And showed that this team, could put up a fight. The Saints tried to run, and they didn't get far. Thanks partly because of a big man named Star. So Brees dropped back to pass, but had little success, Cause the first half, you see, was a Panther sack-fest. The Saints managed to put three points on the board It didn't change much, fans continued to roar. Saint coaches decided to win would take tricks Then decided to try a surprise on-side kick. They recovered the ball, and put up three more points. The Panther response? Let's make some more noise! The defense was solid, and TD is a beast, He wasn't afraid of Drew Brees, in the least. Brees dropped back to pass, he had Graham in his sights But just about then, Thomas Davis took flight. TD hauled it in, an incredible pick! Then Deangelo rushed, for a really quick six! Halftime had come, with the Panthers ahead Twas the first time all day, that the Panthers had led. It was just about now, that the rain came to town, And man let me tell you, it really came down! But Brees is fantastic, and a tough one to spook But in this downpour, he threw it to Luke! The rain made it tough, to move or to score But despite all this mess, we were still up by four. The Panthers had given, as good as they'd got For rivals like this, predictions mean squat. But the Saints they weren't done, they had more in the tank That's when Brees tossed the ball, to Graham on the flank. The Saints took the lead, at thirteen to ten I hadn't been worried, up until then. It was late in the game, and the offense had stalled But just about then, Cam got the call. He dropped back to pass, and hit Teddy in stride And that quick young man, took the Saints for a ride. Hurry up Cats, only seconds are left! Don't worry my friends, cause Greg Olsen is deft! He pulled in the pass, and fell to the ground Cam rushed to the line, to spike the ball down. And that's when it happened, the crowd started to rock The next play, you see, put the Saints fans in shock. Dom on the left, ran a simple out-route And cradled the ball as he fell to the ground. The crowd exploded, in spite of the rain Cause we revel, you see, in Saintly disdain. The review was upheld, as we knew it would be That play right there, put the Cats up by three. Extra point on the board, and time winding down It was joyous to see, Sean Payton's frown. The Panthers had won, on this wet winter day And don't really care, what the 'experts' might say. Now we're back in the playoffs, and man is it grand There's room on our bandwagon, for everyone to stand. We're gonna play tough, and we will make some noise That's just how it is, for these Carolina boys!
  31. 5 points
    Some fans may call these wins frustrating and gut wrenching. I see it as transforming the Panthers into a battle tested group. This is something that is a must have if you plan on winning in the playoffs. My day started at the Clevelander Hotel on South Beach with some great Panthers fans, let by our very own RoaringRiot. I'd like to give a big thank you to Zack for his hospitality. Cam started the day in his usual fashion...ie like a playfull 12 year old. This guy loves the game. Also, I would like you all to just think for a minute about how lucky we are to have Graham Gano. Easily the best kicker we have had in many season. The day started off well enough, with pressure being applied to Ryan Tannehill regularly. But unfortunately the Panthers offense, despite the efforts of Deangelo Williams, forgot to play for most of the first half. In the second half, the Panthers needed a spark. Cam Newton rose to the occasion and began to take over the game. Which ended in a great touchdown run, and one of my favorite shots of him that I have ever taken... It was time for the Panthers defense to follow Cam's lead. Thomas Davis was solid in coverage, forcing a key drop. The Panthers defense began to physically harass Tannehill to give the offense one last chance to win the game. Sometimes it seemed the Panthers defense was just holding on by a glove... Greg Hardy did his job in stopping the run and was key in this victory. Luke Kuechly orchestrated another stop and seemed both exhausted and satisfied. It was then time for the offense to once again win the game on a late 4th quarter drive. Who did they put at the lead of the charge? None other than Mike "Tugboat" Tolbert who rumbled his way to the goal line. To be fair to #28, I'd close my eyes if that was the view as well. After a Cam Newton touchdown to Greg Olsen, it was up to the Special Teams to prevent a long return, and you can credit Brandon Williams with the tackle. Many of us have high hope for Williams. If he can start to contribute on special teams, it may lead to bigger and better things. Overall it was a great game Panthers fans should be completely proud of. Any road win in the NFL is big. Coming Tomorrow: Cheerleader Victory Pics.
  32. 4 points
    As always, throughout OTA's and through the preseason I will be providing a look into what the Carolina Panthers roster may look like. The roster projection will be adjusted according to performance and snap counts. Here is my initial roster projection for the 2016 Carolina Panthers 2016 Panthers Roster Projection OFFENSE 25 Quarterback (3) Cam Newton Derek Anderson Joe Webb Tight End (3) Greg Olsen Ed Dickson Beau Sandland Note: The Panthers have signed a plethora of tight ends, trying to find an eventual replacement for Dickson. Sandland is it. They do not, however, have the luxury of keeping four tight ends when depth is needed elsewhere. Wide Receiver (5) Kelvin Benjamin Devin Funchess Ted Ginn Stephen Hill Philly Brown Note: Only 5 receivers are kept as the depth here is outstanding compared to other positions. This unit is 1000% improved over the unit only two seasons ago. Stephen Hill is the x-factor here with both size and speed. The Panthers remain convinced of his potential. Running Back (3) Jonathan Stewart Cameron Artis-Payne Brandon Wegher Note: The Panthers can no longer keep four running backs this season. Fozzy Whitaker is the odd man out here, Brandon Wegher stays as the younger player with more upside. Full Back (1) Mike Tolbert Offensive Line (10) Michael Oher Mike Remmers Daryl Williams Trai Turner Andrew Norwell Ryan Kalil Chris Scott Gino Gradkowski David Foucault (Insert Free Agent Here) Note: Yeah, the free agent deal is a bit of a cop out on my part, but I just don’t see any other way around it. The Panthers are very very thin at offensive tackle currently, and the roster as it reads today is filled out with practice squad players. Look for an OL signing before the season starts. Defense (25) Defensive Line (9) Kony Ealy Charles Johnson Star Lotulelei Kawann Short Vernon Butler Paul Soliai Mario Addison Wes Horton Ryan Delaire Linebacker (6) Thomas Davis Luke Kuechly Shaq Thompson AJ Klein David Mayo Jeremy Cash Note: How does Cash make the team at his small size? By replacing LB Ben Jacobs as a special teams ace. Cahnuh (5) Bene Benwikere James Bradberry Daryl Worley Zack Sanchez Lou Young Note: I just do not see the Panthers signing a veteran cahnuh of note. They would not have cut Boykin if that was in the cards. The Panthers like Lou Young very much. Could be a nice season for him. Safety (5) Kurt Coleman Tre Boston Dean Marlowe Colin Jones Marcus Ball Note: Colin Jones has shown he can drop down and be a buffalo nickel when needed, so he counts as both a safety and cahnuh spot as an x-factor. Add in his special teams contributions and he is a very valuable player. Special Teams (3) Graham Gano Swayze Waters JJ Jansen So there you have it, my initial 2016 Carolina Panthers Roster Prediction. Well liked players such as Keyarris Garrett and Damiere Byrd are by no means out of the picture, but as of today they have work to do if they plan on making the team. This should make for great training camp competition. Remember, if you disagree you cannot simply add in a player without telling me who you would take off. Many folks like to do that and pretend there is no player limit.
  33. 4 points
    By now most, if not all, of Panthers nation has seen the 2016 season schedule. If not, here it be.... General Thoughts and Musings.... REVENGE Obviously, the first game is huge. Not in terms of playoff potential as it is an AFC opponent, but in terms of starting fresh after a Superbowl loss. Everyone is talking about this, and rightfully so. But what happens next is interesting... HOME COOKING Four... count them again, FOUR home games in a row. I know, I know, in Atlanta is technically an away game. But now in the Cam Newton era there is no friendlier place to be in terms of tone and proximity. Half of that place will be black and blue once again. Keep an eye on that Vikings game though... could be a surprise upset against the Panthers. That is the only one I am slightly concerned about in that stretch. Bottom line... The Panthers really need to cushion their lead in the NFC South during this period. Halloween in the Big Easy Last year Panthers weekend in New Orleans was pretty nuts. I met up with the Roaring Riot crew, had a few cocktails, and I couldn't tell you what happened after that if I wanted to. This year I envision the same thing, only with a Halloween theme as it is mid October. Things could get even crazier. Oh, and the Panthers play the Saints. That is a mark in the win column. At the Bye.... Week 7 brings the Panthers bye week. Not too shabby, almost in the middle of the season. Time for the Panthers to lick their wounds and refocus. Best case scenario the Panthers are 6-0... which would be great because there are some really rough waters ahead. Candy to Turkey From Halloween to Thanksgiving things get more difficult, but still manageable. Three home games and one west coast game against the Rams who will be starting a rookie QB. Go ahead and mark that a win. Two of the home games could be problematic... Cardinals and Chiefs. Both playoff caliber teams. The good news is that these are home games and the Panthers should have the edge. It would not shock me to see the Panthers lose one of these games, the first home loss in quite some time. Efff you, Santa Next brings us the holiday season. This is the roughest patch of turf the Panthers have seen on a schedule in many seasons. Four away games. Two home games. The Panthers won't even be coming back to Charlotte for the entire week between the Raiders and Seahawks games. They will likely stay out west and practice at a college field. On a personal note, Mr RoaringRiot himself and I have discussed just staying out west as well and making it a west coast micro brew road tour for the week as we make our way from Oakland to Seattle. That sounds amazing, not sure we would survive past Portland. The good news here is that the Panthers will have 10 days to prepare for that game in Oakland. I expect they will fly out a day or two earlier to adjust to the time change. That game should be a victory for the Panthers, but the next week in Seattle..... I don't think so. That is the closest thing to a sure fire loss I have seen on a schedule in a long time. Far too much travel and change to face a tough home team. The last two road games are not awful, but at this point the Panthers could be worn down from the west coast barrage, making them much tougher. The Redskins and Buccaneers both could be playing for wild card spots at this point, neither are pushovers. All in all, if the Panthers can manage to go 3-3 in the final six games, they still should be in the lead in the division. I am not one for definitive record predictions as so much hinges on staying healthy. But looking at this schedule I would say 12-4 is a pretty fair prediction, give or take. Which brings me to my last point... Pray for a first round bye! You can go ahead and consider a first round bye mandatory this year if the Panthers hope to reach the Superbowl again. I do not like their chances in the playoffs without one. The last portion of the schedule is extremely taxing. Not so much physically, but psychologically. Fans tend to forget these players have lives and families at home. Travelling and getting out of normal routines takes a toll. That said, if the Panthers can earn a first round bye this season, I like their chances.
  34. 4 points
    One of the unique features of humans is that we have the ability to tell stories about ourselves. And we've done just that, since the dawn of time. Some scholars argue that stories began in conjunction with the invention of controlled fire, others that it came about with the arrival of language structure and the ability to self-reflect. Whatever the origin, we've been spinning yarns for as long as anyone can remember. Faded cave paintings in Europe and the existence of millennia-old oral tales bear testament to this fact. Gilgamesh, Sisyphus, Star Wars, Back to the Future, The Karate Kid, Finding Nemo - all of them are human stories about meaning. And all of them are the same. So argued Joseph Campbell, a profoundly influential 20th century writer who penned the now-famous work The Hero with a Thousand Faces. In it, he compares hundreds of myths (stories, legends, tales, epics, dramas, folklore) from across all times and places and argues (very convincingly) that those stories have an internal structure that is more or less the same across the board. Every story has its hero, and every hero follows the same basic pattern, encounters the same basic trials, receives the same basic help, faces the same basic obstacles, completes the same basic end. Joseph Campbell calls it The Hero's Journey. Troll 2 was cited as a notable exception. The Hero's Journey is composed of 17 stages. The stages are variable in order, but the hero - whether it's Luke Skywalker or Marty McFly or Frodo Baggins - always begins in an ordinary world, in which he receives an initiation. It's a call to adventure: Luke was smitten with the lore of the Jedi when he met old Ben Kenobi, Marty rushed to the scene of Doc Brown's time experiment and was interrupted by Libyan terrorists, and Frodo bounded joyfully out of the Shire, shouting it to anyone who would listen. I'm going on an adventure! Out of the ordinary world our heroes inevitably journey, their departure leading them into the world of the extraordinary, the other, a place of trial and temptation and initiation. They fight and they fall and they grow and they triumph, and every hero's journey ends in a return, a heart-swelling finish: Jesus to the Heavens, Nemo to the reef, Simba to the pride. And, goddammit, the Super Bowl Champion Carolina Panthers to Charlotte, North Carolina. That's right, the Carolina Panthers are our hero, and they're on a journey that follows the same structure seen in timeless epics the world over. Take a look at Campbell's mythic structure, broken down into 17 different stages: Sweet hot damn, if this isn't a a mirror of the journey of the 2015 Carolina Panthers I don't know what is. Let's break it down, step by step. 1) Call to Adventure! It's Week one, and the Panthers take on the Jacksonville Jaguars. It's the beginning of the season, where everyone's undefeated. Much maligned all preseason as marginal at best, Carolina grabs a hard-fought victory and advances to 1-0. The journey has begun. 2) Refusal of the Call. Every hero faces trepidation, the terror of the unknown and the possibility of failure. With Luke Keuchly lost the week before, a sense of inadequacy filled the hearts of our heroes, a weakening of confidence as the JJ Watt-led Texans marched into town. But the refusal in the head is always overcome by a stirring in the heart, and the Panthers stepped up and produced a win. 3) The Magic Helper. When the hero commits fully to the journey, his aid becomes known. It's usually magic, and it usually comes from an unexpected place. For Luke Skywalker it was Ben Kenobi and the Force. For the Panthers it was ...Mike Shula? Suddenly the Panthers were making good use of personnel, scheming around talent deficiencies, and scoring points, with Shula pulling the strings behind the scenes. The Saints went down hard. 4) Crossing First Threshold. Here the hero enters into the realm of the unknown for the first time. And the Panthers, utterly destroying the Buccaneers for four quarters, found themselves stepping onto the path of a 4-0 undefeated team. Suddenly people were using words like "elite" (if only skeptically) to describe them, and our heroes found themselves on the cusp of true initiation. The Bucs were one thing, but the Seahawks were quite another. 5) Belly of the Whale. The hero lives his world behind for good, finally separated from his old self. When Greg Olsen caught a game-winning touchdown pass against a foe that had sent them seething to the locker room for nearly half a decade, the Panthers entered this stage of the journey. They underwent a metamorphosis that day, and suddenly the world noticed something new about the Carolina Panthers. They were... dangerous. 6) Road of Trials. With the emotion of the Seahawks game passed, our heroes settled in for the long haul. Sixteen games takes a lot of focus. After several weeks of emotional highs and blown-up scoreboards and jaw-dropping highlight plays, the contest against the Philadelphia Eagles brought them down to earth in what was more or less a war of attrition, and probably the most boring game of the season. Cam threw some ugly interceptions. Ted Ginn dropped balls. Greg Olsen was marginal. The Panthers won, but they carried a lot of questions to the locker room. They had problems to fix. 7) Meeting with the Goddess. At this point in the journey, the hero has faced serious hardships and is in need of morale boosters and an infusion of courage. In this case it was none other than Mother Rain. The field was a maelstrom that night, and the second play from scrimmage was an Andrew Luck fumble, and from there the ass-kicking was on. The Colts would come back to force overtime, but the goddess of precipitation had other plans, letting a soaked football slip out of the outstretched arms of TY Hilton and into Luke Keuchly's outstretched arms. A gift from the heavens. Panthers win. 8) Temptation. Oh, here was temptation. The Panthers were 7-0, one of the best teams in the league, and the temptation to buy into their own hype was enormous. But Ron Rivera, man of discipline, father of stalwart focus, would not let them. They shithoused the Packers, embarrassing them in the first half and making several clutch plays in the second to seal off a comeback attempt. With the lackluster Tennessee Titans up next, the temptation was stronger still. 9) Atonement with the Father. But Ron Rivera wouldn't let them. Ron Rivera, the strongest influence in their football lives, here infused them with power through a special encounter. Against the Titans, Cam infamously danced in the end zone after a hard-fought score, bringing the wrath of loser defensive ends and the pearl-clutching mother of the new Antebellum. The team dabbed on 'em, took group photos. They laughed and they rioted and they partied. And Ron Rivera - coach, father, mentor - sanctified it. Our heroes were validated by the man they loved the most. Our heroes were ready for a run. 10) Apostasis. Dying to the self. Rebirth, a new identity. This happened twice in two consecutive weeks. Cam Newton died to his former self, throwing a record five touchdown passes en route to a four-quarter thrashing of the Redskins, the first time in his career he'd done it. And four days later, Luke Keuchly destroyed Tony Romo's fragile confidence, taking one to the house and punching Tony Romo in the face, the first time in his career he'd done either. Clark Kent had become Superman and Steve Rogers had become Captain America. They wouldn't look back. 11) The Ultimate Boon. In the hero's journey, the boon is usually the hero's ultimate goal. No boon but a Lombardi would suffice, but sweeping the hated Saints was arguably the regular season's most valuable plunder. And plunder they did. Superman took them for five touchdowns, leading a clutch last-minute drive for victory and advancing the team to 12-0. 12) Refusal of Return. Heroes often find themselves at a crossroads, a refusal of return, having found bliss and enlightenment in the world they've occupied. But E.T. had to phone home. And the Panthers, now the NFL's last undefeated, found themselves vulnerable, with the entire league aiming to shoot them down. But they suited up and they came home and they trounced the Falcons, 38-0. 13) Magic Flight. The hero has gained something of value in his journey and must bring it home to the people: a victory, or a rescue, a healing potion, the culmination of the journey. In Rescuers Down Under, it was Bernard the Mouse, milquetoast though he was, on Orville the Albatross, a high-stakes gambit to save Cody from McLeach and that lizard thing. In the 2015 Carolina Panthers, it was a high-flying shootout with the New York Giants in the hardest test our heroes had faced all season. Do or die, they were told, and they did. The Giants died. 14) Rescue from Without. Here, on the brink of return, our hero is wounded. Injured, weakened from the fight. The Panthers lost to the Falcons in a dismal end to the greatest winning streak the franchise had ever seen. The needed one last shot of power, one last infusion of confidence to catapult them over the edge. And they got it from none other than Cam Newton, who took them into the Buccaneers without his running game and leading wide receiver and led his team to victory. 15) Crossing the Return Threshold. Our heroes completed the season at 15-1, but the journey wasn't over yet. Our heroes still had a treasure to bring home. To do it they'd have to start by defending their home against the final onslaughts of the enemy. That threshold was Bank of America Stadium, and there they displayed the prowess they'd gained on their journey, brutally dumping 31 first-half points on the Seahawks for the entire world to see. They made a statement, and the city of Charlotte, its heroes at their gates, sang with hope. Victory was at their doorstep. 16) Master of Two Worlds. In the classical hero's myth, the journey up until this point has been a strengthening: the hero, once week and feeble, has, through his trials and tribulations, gained a series of strengths along the way. At this stage of the journey, preparing for his final battle, he must put both of his strengths on display. And the Panthers, having struggled at times defensively all year, at times offensively when needing to close out a game, demolished the media-touted Arizona Cardinals in a victory so staggeringly complete that Ron Rivera had to decline field goals and touchdowns just to save his enemy from allowing 50+ points. The stage has been set for the final component of the hero's journey: 17) The Freedom to Live. Mastery leads to the freedom of fear from death. Our heroes are whole. Our heroes are strong, courageous, mighty, and full of lust for final victory. They are masters of themselves, masters of their fate, masters of destiny. Forward they charge on Sunday, against the Denver Broncos, masters of football, masters of offense, masters of defense, masters of point-scoring and masters of pain. On Sunday the journey ends. On Sunday Charlotte's heroes bring home its boon. 31-20 Panthers
  35. 4 points
    I woke up this morning to find the bulk of Panthers Nation on football suicide watch in the wake of the Kelvin Benjamin ACL news. While the situation does look dire for the Panthers receiving corps, it isn't the end of the 2015 Panthers playoff hopes. The Panthers simply need to look at the offensive talent they have on their roster (and there is plenty of it), and embrace an identity that matches it. What should that identity be? Answer: A hard nosed running attack with play action passing. The Panthers do not have the roster currently to attack by the air. It just will not happen this year folks. However, the Panthers do have a very strong roster for running the ball. Embrace it. The pendulum started to swing last year. Teams have smaller, faster defenses with sub packages to combat the passing game of today's NFL. The time is now to run the ball in a power running game and turn their defensive strength into a weakness. Oher, Norwell, Kalil, Turner, Remmers, and even rookie Daryl Williams are all suited to dominate in a run game provided an adequate scheme and play calling. Stewart, Tolbert, Todman, Artis-Payne, Brockel and even the rookie Lee Ward are perfect weapons in the offensive backfield for this approach. So they want to put 8 or 9 in the box? Good, let them. Pretend it is 1978, line up your biggest meanest guys and pound out a few yards at a time. Throw a quick out to Greg Olsen, or a long bomb to Ted Ginn out of play action. Bootleg Cam Newton for a big gain once the defense is tired and gasping for air. Forget running out of the shotgun. Forget the finesse two tight end sets. Forget the bubble screen to a 4th receiver. Forget single back sets. And for the love of all that is holy, please do not pretend last year's offensive scheme will work with the current Panthers personnel. Because...
  36. 4 points
    Ah yes, in rolls the New Year. Before you pop open the champagne and do something you will probably regret the next morning.... here are a few New Years Resolution suggestions to all Panthers fans everywhere. Every new wide receiver is not a perennial all-pro Last season is was Hill. This season it is Norwood. These guys are projects. They have the opportunity to earn jerseys throughout the week. If they don't, don't blame the coaches. Stop the media whining Every day I wake to see more and more complaints about the disrespect the Carolina Panthers get in the national media. Stop whining... and embrace it. The underdog role is something the Panthers have embraced over the years.... so should you. Welcome bandwagon fans You want a Bank of America Stadium full of Panthers fans on Sundays? Well, you are going to have to welcome new fans. Get over yourself and your need to put others down because you have been a fan longer. For all that is holy, please shut your traps while on offense It is a shame that this still needs addressed. I have even had push back on social media from people who disagree with me. "The team gets energy from us yelling while they are on offense". No, they do not. They get energy from not having to yell play calls and adjustments at the top of their lungs. They get energy from not having to call a time out or walk back five yards from a false start. Save your lungs for when the Panthers defense takes the field. End of discussion.
  37. 4 points
    The original Death Star was a Japanese battleship called the Yamato. The year was 1937. Leadership councils in the Japanese Empire foresaw a war with America as their capacity for national self-sufficiency bled away, and they recognized that American shipyards could out-produce them if war were to break out. As a proactive measure, they decided to build the biggest, baddest, fastest, most heavily-armed warship ever created by man. Shrouded in secrecy from keel-laying to commission, the Yamato was nearly a fifth of a mile long, displaced over 70,000 tons fully loaded, and wielded nine 18.1" guns, making it the largest, longest, most heavily-armed naval ship in the history of the universe. It has since been reimagined as a giant-ass U.N. rocket ship for no good reason whatsoever. The Yamato was ready for war a week after the Japanese effectively declared it by bombing Pearl Harbor. She was built for one purpose and one purpose alone: to blast the hell out of columns of American battleships. Much like the previous century's military strategy had been dominated by legions of troops squaring off against one another in unprotected formations in the open field, naval strategies early on in the war were invariably composed of battleship lines: the archaic tactic of big guns slugging it out on the high seas. This approach followed hundreds of years of unassailed naval doctrine; wars were won by opposing surface fleets, and that was that. But then Pearl Harbor happened. Ironically, it was Japan's resounding success in striking the American naval base that ultimately did her in. The U.S. fleet had been so badly damaged that fleet maneuvers mere months later had to be made in the absence of a half-dozen premier battleships. Of course, any grand showdown in the open Pacific with the Imperial Japanese Navy would be suicide with the Arizona, West Virginia, California, and Nevada lying on the harbor floor or beached uselessly against its shores. If something was going to be done about the advancing Japanese, it was going to have to be done through unorthodox means. Like, say, the aircraft carrier. Numerical designator 10 signifies the number of people that thought these goddamn things would actually work. Prior to 1942, aircraft carriers were transports as much as anything, useful for stationing offshore as a strike platform on a place too distant for land-based attacks. It had never been considered as a tool of true naval warfare. Necessity is never more the mother of invention than in war, however, and circumstances thrust it into action in a new role. And suddenly, miraculously, the U.S. Navy found itself at the winning end of a watershed moment in the history of warfare: during the Battle of the Coral Sea, carrier-based bomber strikes successfully repelled a massive Japanese fleet, even sinking a Japanese carrier. Echoing through eternity is commander Robert Dixon's famous words: "Scratch one flat-top!" radioed to his squadron as the Shōhō went under. He had just unknowingly immortalized the ushering in of warfare's modern era. At that moment the complexion of the war changed. Three months later a fleet of American aircraft carriers launched long-range attacks against a Japanese force invading Midway Island. They sent four Japanese carriers plunging to the bottom with several waves of dive-bomber and torpedo-bomber attacks, repelling the invasion fleet a thousand miles from its objective. And the Yamato, class of the Imperial Japanese Navy, the baddest ship on the high seas, had been instantly rendered irrelevant. Her massive guns had been rendered obsolete in the unlikeliest of ways. She had gone from golden goose to sitting duck in the space of months. Kind of like the Atlanta Falcons! The year was 2008. Leadership councils in Atlanta foresaw an opportunity in the NFC South. With an aging roster, the Carolina Panthers' window was closing fast. The Buccaneers were coasting on the waning success of Jon Gruden and a no-name quarterback in a league evolving to leave them behind, and the New Orleans Saints, for all their offensive prowess, were a perennial disaster on the other side of the ball. As a proactive measure, the Falcons decided to draft a quarterback and assemble an offensive roster that would give him downfield weapons and a stalwart offensive line to build around. The result was 3rd overall pick Matt Ryan. Matt Ryan was quickly tabbed as a future NFL star (you could see it the moment he splashed that big advertisement deal with AirTran.) The first play of his career was a 67-yard bomb to Michael Jenkins for a touchdown. He put together a stellar rookie campaign and led his team to the playoffs with a rookie head coach (the first time a rookie head coach/quarterback combination accomplished such a feat since the Cleveland Rams did it in 1945.) Matt Ryan was the Yamato of the NFC South. The clear future, the meteoric talent, the juggernaut. He would dominate, he would bring victory. Like Pearl Harbor, the lockout torpedoed the Carolina Panthers and sent them crashing to the bottom; it was even an inside job, as many have accused Pearl Harbor of being, most notably outlined in the ironically-named Clausen Inquiry. And the Panthers, wounded, stripped of their talent, had to find some new way to win. If something was going to be done about the advancing Falcons, it was going to have to be done through unorthodox means. Like, say, drafting Cam Newton. Before 2011, quarterbacks didn't get to run and call themselves good quarterbacks at the same time. "Mobile quarterback" was a trope for "black and can't throw." The positional archetype was a Matt Ryan: tall, sturdy, committed to standing stalwart in the pocket and making efficient downfield throws, relying on hard work and familiarity with Xs and Os rather than premier athletic talent. But circumstances thrust a widely-criticized, mold-breaking, rough-edged quarterback who could attack defenses in ways never before encountered into a starting role with the Panthers; and, just as the jut of the Shōhō's bow from the frothing sea as she went under changed the landscape of naval warfare forever, Cam Newton's touchdown pass deep down the left sideline to Steve Smith announced to the world that a new force had arrived to the NFC South, a new power to be reckoned with. Nearly five full seasons from the moment of that first touchdown pass, the revolution of the Carolina Panthers is nearly complete. Cam Newton is the runaway MVP favorite. He'll cement it this week by taking on the Falcons. He'll do it, ironically, in an air raid. He'll do it against the Yamato of the NFC South, the new quarterback of the new team that was supposed to dominate and control it. In 1945 the Yamato met her end ignominiously, loaded with troops, like any common transport ship, and given orders for a suicide mission: to beach on Okinawa and use her massive guns in support of the defense until depleted or destroyed. Poetically, she was spotted by reconnaissance planes flown from aircraft carriers, bombed and torpedoed for two hours. Finally she capsized, blew up spectacularly, split in half, and, symbolic in more ways than one of the flagging Japanese war effort, sank to the bottom of the ocean forever. On Sunday the Falcons embrace their suicide mission. On Sunday they meet the force they inadvertently created. On Sunday they explode spectacularly, split in half, and plunge to the bottom of the NFC South. The Panthers advance to 15-0. Merry Christmas everyone!
  38. 4 points
    Aaron Rodgers is dead. ...metaphorically speaking, of course. Prior to last Sunday the best quarterback in the league has been waved around at Panthers fans like bikers aim mace at stray dogs. "Who've y'all played?" has been the common refrain when discussing records - particularly undefeated records - and it's been made clear by everyone who cares to give an opinion that Rodgers and the Packers are the measuring stick for success. Naysayers from Bristol, Connecticut to Greenville, South Carolina predicted losses to the first winning team Carolina has faced since week 10 of the 2014 season (a horrific loss to the Eagles.) The Panthers responded anyway, hanging 37 on their defense despite leaving 17 points on the field (two wide-open touchdowns and a missed field goal) and shut Rodgers down for three full quarters, stymying his furious fourth-quarter rally once and for all with a Thomas Davis interception for a win reminiscent of Jon Beason's game-ending grab against him in 2008. But the Panthers were a hair's breadth away from 7-1 and a deflating loss despite being up 37-14 at one point in the fourth quarter. How could that Carolina defense have been so dominant for so many quarters and then fall apart so spectacularly in such a short amount of time? The answer is simple: Carolina played man coverage and got creative on the defensive line. In other words, they ripped off Wade Phillips's gameplan and executed it to near perfection. Take a look at this play: The Packers offense thrives on isolation routes. They rely on an excellent, heavily-invested-in receiving core to beat man coverage. Aaron Rodgers's diagnostic abilities are the quickest in the league, and Edgar Bennett's route combos are designed to let him quickly scan the field and immediately hit the guy that's beating his man. It's simple, incredibly efficient, and maddening for pass rushers. The above play is a Packers archetype: two receivers running go routes on the outside, two inside receivers running routes into the middle of the field at different levels. But look what happens: No one open, no one open, no one open, sack. This play sums up the first half for the Packers, whose receivers, offensive line, and quarterback were stifled by Sean McDermott's defense from their first snap. One of the reasons the Packers are a perennially elite offense is because they know how to make adjustments. Two plays into the second half they broke this one out of the playbook: Look at the routes at the bottom of your screen. They don't cross, but they're not isolation routes, either; they're designed to slow down the corners (Tillman at the bottom, Benwikere in the slot.) On the outside Davante Adams is running a three-step slant while Cobb, in the slot, runs a wheel route. What what happens: Benwikere follows Cobb to the sideline, covering the flat and watching the quarterback's eyes for a hit on that slant. But Cobb simply beats him to the edge of the flat, vacated by Tillman, and when he turns upfield it's too late for Benwikere to catch up. Rodgers throws a perfect ball, hits his receiver in stride, and it's a sorely-needed touchdown for the Packers. In light of this play, Carolina switched to a zone defense for most of the fourth quarter. They consistently saw plays like this one: I don't watch a lot of Packers games, but it's my understanding that Bennett's offense doesn't use bunch formations very often. They do here, part of an attempt to run crossing routes, misdirections, and pick plays to exploit holes in the soft cover three the Panthers were showing for most of that fourth quarter. This particular play wasn't successful, but it's indicative of the type of play-calling the Packers used to get back into the game. Thankfully it didn't matter. Like the ancient Titans to the swords of their children the Packers fell, gods no more, Mount Othrys a desecrated wasteland. Aaron Rodgers bent to Kawaan Short's lashing blows like Uranus to the emasculating sickle of Kronos. New god-kings claimed the heavens - Zeus and Artemis and Poseidon and Hermes, Davis and Keuchly and Norman and Ealy - Olympians in heart and spirit. But vanquishing a titan is no small feat, and the Panthers have plenty more to face, starting Sunday in Tennessee. Atlas may shrug, but Cam and Shula can't: Tennessee is only allowing 217 passing yards per game over the course of the season, third best in the league. They are a dangerous team with Mariota back and a defensive line stacked with pass rushers. They have weaknesses: on Monday new head coach Mike Mularky announced a lineup change in the heretofore atrocious offensive line, shifting guard Byron Bell to right tackle, their right tackle to right guard, and inserting a center somehow named "Looney" into the lineup. Offensive coordinator Jason Michaels runs more staggered, multi-level crossing routes than the Packers, but the Panthers can at least use a similar strategy on the defensive line if not the coverage calls: lots and lots of stunts. They will have every opportunity to feast on an inexperienced and talentless trench unit. On offense the Panthers have a challenge against a defensive secondary that's unremarkable as a unit, but bolstered by a quality pass rush. The good news is they've allowed the 7th most yards in the league to tight ends. Greg Olsen is licking his chops. With starting CB2 Jason McCourty questionable for Sunday, expect to see plays like the following: The strong safety (bracketed in red) is the target here. The outside corner at the bottom of your screen is turned, trying to route his man (Philly Brown) inside. Fine. Run him inside on a drag five yards upfield, occupying the OLB and making him release the tight end (or get burnt by brown.) This is a pretty simple way to get one-on-one coverage, especially when the other side of the field is forcing the free safety to roll out to protect Ginn's deep route along the sideline. Cam is money throwing up the seam and this is a matchup Olsen wins all day. Easy touchdown. On a final note: Cam Newton transcended his position at quarterback by becoming both the police, a cultural hero, and the patron saint of Bank of America Stadium. Moved to artistry, I painted this rendition of Cam stealing those Packers fans' banner and running off with it. Picture quality is poor due to my camera's lack of a flash. I call it Solidarity's Genesis. 13x17 oil on canvas, $300 Here's to titans falling.
  39. 4 points
    In a tale as legendary as time itself, unlikely hero Martin McFly once found himself in 1955, trapped in his own past thirty years before the present. There he found his father, George McFly, pummeled and ridiculed by Biff Tannen, subject to the insults and repeated harassment of a bully able to impose his will every time they met. Marty watched in disgust as his father, a gangly, overgrown, underpowered high school milquetoast, kowtowed to Biff's every offense. It was a dynamic that molded his identity, indeed his very consciousness. Biff's bullying became the essence of who George McFly was. Does this dynamic sound familiar? Biff Tannen is the Seattle Seahawks, and by my estimation that makes the Panthers George McFly. But we've all seen how that one ends, and it's glorious. Faster than you can yell "Hello McFly!" the Panthers did swear, George, goddammit, and they punched Biff square in the face, knocked him out, and took the girl. And thirty years later, back in the present, Marty observed the difference that win made in his father's life, his personality, his outlook, his attitude. It became the single defining moment in his life and spawned greatness. But all did not end well. Just like Seattle isn't the end of the season, so did Marty find that his misadventures were only beginning. Having only just triumphed over his own family's fate, Marty found himself in a new crisis. So it goes with the Panthers. Forget the past, it's time to go back to the future and avenge the poor choices of your children: that is, the 2014 Panthers matchup against the Philadelphia Eagles. October 21, 2015 That's the date Marty went to the future. He saw a version of his future that reminded him of his past: his son a criminal, his wife a drunk, his own life in shambles due to a series of terrible choices. And what's more, 78-year-old Biff stole the DeLorean, flew to 1955, gave that version of himself a sports almanac, and set in motion a chain of events leading to an alternate reality, a dystopian 1985 that finds Hill Valley in physical ruin, crossed with barbed wire, bodybags, machine guns, social decay, and the flickering neon lights of excess and immense economic inequality. In other words, they were in Philadelphia. Absolute disaster! Much like Doc and Marty, the Panthers last year found themselves humuliated by the Eagles, sacked nine times and overwhelmed from the opening snap. A starting secondary consisting of Melvin White, Antoine Cason, Charles Godfrey, and Thomas DeCoud couldn't stop Mark Sanchez from lighting up the scoreboard, and an offensive line consisting of Byron Bell, Amini Silatolu, Chris Scott, and Nate Chandler couldn't stop a formidable pass rush from shredding the point of attack. The result was a humiliating 45-21 loss that was a deeper drubbing than it sounds (14 of those Carolina points came in garbage time.) In the trash-strewn alleys of 1985, Doc and Marty knew they needed a plan to reverse the past and make the present right again. Just like they had to devise a plan to return to 1955 and steal Biff's fateful sports almanac, the Panthers need to devise a plan to clip the wings of a Philadelphia team coming off of two straight wins, surging in the NFC East and motivated to prove the doubters wrong. Philadelphia has fixed several early-season hang-ups, maximizing their strengths and minimizing their weaknesses. Taking them down won't be an easy task, but here's a few keys to making it happen: 1) Take advantage of a soft interior line. This is probably the Eagles' biggest weakness personnel-wise. Guards Allen Barbre and Matt Tobin are playing some of the worst positional football in the league, consistently allowing penetration by defensive tackles on both running and passing downs. More surprisingly, center Jason Kelce is having the worst year of his professional career (perhaps Panthers fans can sympathize, having watched Ryan Kalil's effectiveness plunge when sandwiched between subpar talent.) Star Lotulelei and Kawann Short should both have huge days. 2) Force DeMarco Murray to run laterally. One of the Eagles' biggest problems over the course of the season has been trying to get Murray going south downfield. He hasn't been able to do it, largely because of terrible interior line play, which plays right into the Panthers' strengths. Interior pressure should force Chip Kelly to treat Murray as the scat back he isn't, sending him outside, around the tackles, where rising star Kony Ealy and newcomer Ryan Delaire are good enough to seal the edge and allow a speedy linebacking corps to come up and make plays. 3) Put the ball in Sam Bradford's hands. Prior to this season Bradford was touted as having the best pass-to-turnover ratio in the league. Not so this year. Bradford has looked atrocious, and it's reflected in the Eagles' bottom-scraping average of 8+ yards to go on third down. Third and long has been standard fare for Bradford through six games and this is where Carolina can force him into mistakes. Bradford's problem hasn't been decision-making, it's been accuracy, and it's hard to imagine a defense better suited for making him pay for off-target balls. The Giants' last-ranked pass defense forced three interceptions last week, so expect a feeding frenzy. 4) Play physically against Philadelphia's receivers. None of them are playing good ball right now, and both have proven susceptible to being nullified at the line of scrimmage when pressed. Jordan Matthews has made a few plays but tends to come up short when it counts (see: game-losing bobble against the Falcons in week one) and Aglohor has proved deeply inconsistent, notching only eight receptions and a fumble through six games. (It's worth noting he didn't practice yesterday and may be out for Sunday's matchup, leaving the number two duties to second-year man Josh Huff, a negligible threat.) Riley Cooper is reliable but dislikes minorities. 5) Isolate the Eagles' cornerbacks. This is going to be key on offense for the Panthers. Last year the Eagles defense struggled in coverage, allowing the most yards after catch in the league, and retooled the entire secondary as an answer. Both safeties are playing at a high level, but corner Byron Maxwell is having an awful year, and his counterpart, Nolan Carroll, is only marginal. There are no tricks to exposing Maxwell. Here's a play the Jets ran in week three: Nothing special, just a deep out run by Brandon Marshall. Maxwell is turn inside in coverage, attempting to direct the route inside where he'll have safety help upfield, or simply not get beat over the top, which has been a problem for him. Much like Cary Williams last week, Maxwell often has to play off the line of scrimmage to avoid getting beat. This buffer often leaves openings for quick cuts and big plays. Cue Brandon Marshall: That's as easy as you're going to get in the NFL. Maxwell plays too far back to recover when Marshall pivots outside, and Fitzpatrick connects with him for a nice gain. The Panthers should be able to take advantage of matchups like this all day. One way Mike Shula can isolate poorly-performing corners like Maxwell is heavy use of two TE sets. A play like the following would likely be successful: Nothing special about this play other than that it utilizes a good tight end and a fast wide receiver. At the bottom of the screen the strong safety will probably have to come up to bracket the TE, Olsen, in the flat, leaving single coverage outside against the receiver (a safer bet than your strong-side linebacker alone against Olsen.) On the upper end of your screen the slot receiver (ideally Philly Brown or Ted Ginn Jr.) will force the free safety to give helped to the nickel back over the top, leaving one-on-one coverage outside for the receiver (who runs an outside hitch in this case.) Plays like this will isolate Maxwell and Carroll in space, where they struggle to position themselves properly against opposing receivers. If the Panthers can do these things they should come out with a convincing win - beating Biff, as it were, and restoring things to the way they were meant to be: victors over the Eagles, undefeated.
  40. 4 points
    As part of their Undrafted series, NFL Network is spotlighting Panthers RB Brandon Wegher. It seems Wegher is getting more than just local attention for his late game heroics. Parallels have been drawn between him and another undrafted running back, Arian Foster of the Texans. There is a path for Wegher to make the Panthers 53 man roster. I have it detailed here on a possible projected roster.
  41. 4 points
    This year on the Huddle I am introducing a new feature on the Huddle I think you will love. I will be displaying some of my favorite photos from each game along with commentary in "Along the Sidelines" in hi-definition. This method is optimized for HD viewing and retina screens. I hope you enjoy the first installment. Along the Sidelines - Dolphins at Panthers
  42. 4 points
    During Sunday's press conference, Panthers running back Jonathan Stewart called rookie fullback Lee Ward a "Punisher". Ward likes that description. "That's a huge compliment, especially coming from that guy" Ward told me after practice. "He is an absolute monster and I expect huge things from him this year." During Monday's practice, Ward began to showcase why Jonathan Stewart classified him in that unique way. Ward, in charge of protecting his quarterback, stifled linebacker Adarius Glanton for the duration of the play. Glanton appeared not to have taken too kindly to Ward's tenacity and got in a little extra curricular activity, knocking his helmet off after the whistle. I asked Ward if he had lost his helmet and had a busted chin before. "It's something that has happened my whole career. I've busted my chin too many times to count at this point. They say the ladies like scars, so I guess it is only a good thing, right?" On the very next play, Ward picked up his protection assignment again, this time linebacker stopping Jason Trusnik in his tracks. The result was much the same, namely proper protection and enough time for Derek Anderson to make a good read and throw. Ward does not seem to be too concerned about any ramifications from defensive players not accustomed to being stopped by a rookie. "I just try to get them on the play and do the best I can. I'm not really worried about the extra curricular stuff. The veterans don't appreciate a rookie coming and hitting them in the mouth, but I am trying to make this team just like they are." Ward appears to have the right mind set required for any rookie, especially an undrafted one, to make a NFL team. If he can keep impressing like he did today he could very possibly make the Panthers practice squad or even regular roster.
  43. 4 points
    One could easily make the argument that Carolina Panthers guard Andrew Norwell was the biggest steal in last year's rookie class. At the cost of an undrafted free agent, the Panthers landed an impressive full time starter in year one. Now, in year two, he seems to have picked up right where he left off. During 1 on 1 drills between the offensive and defensive lines, Norwell displayed exactly why he is currently the starter over former starter Amini Silotulu. Norwell is not a physical specimen. He does not have the measurables and stats that pro scouts adore. But he does have a special set of skills.... Norwell is technically sound and football strong. Even while taking hands to the face from Dwan Edwards. He recovers, plants himself, and drives the defensive opponent backwards. Later, he did much the same with KK Short, which is no easy task. Notice the quick feet, wide stance, and punishing forearm that will keep Cam Newton looking down field and not for somewhere to run. I know, I know, its another Norwell article from Igo. But really folks, this kid is a long term solution for the Panthers that did not cost a draft pick. In today's NFL of high priced QBs and other marquee players, Norwell is exactly the type of player that allows a team to contend year after year. The Carolina Panthers need unsung guys like Norwell if they expect to be playing in January.
  44. 4 points
    You've read the announcement. You've seen the schedule. Now, I will give you the inside scoop on the Panthers Training Camp. I have seen a lot of rookie fan mistakes out there, and I aim to clean it up. Camp begins with the Back to Football festivities at Gibbs Stadium. Be sure to arrive early, there are lots of great things to see and hear before practice begins. Typically there is live entertainment including a band as well as an appearance by a few select topcats. This takes place in front of the stadium close to the parking areas. Practice takes place inside of Gibbs Stadium. Most people head for the seats closest to the parking. However, I feel like the best seating for Gibbs Stadium is on the east side of the field, especially if you are looking for player autographs. These bleachers are adjacent to where the players enter and leave the practice. The lower corner of these bleachers are prime autograph real estate. You will be in the sun a bit more, but as the practice is later in the evening, that may not matter much to you. Most of the practices at Training Camp are done on the three practice fields adjacent to Gibbs Stadium. There are a few key things here you should know... Player Autographs If you are looking for Carolina Panthers autographs listen up. The autograph area is along the fence near where the players enter and exit the locker rooms (pictured below). The key here is to position yourself in the right area. Typically the closer to the locker rooms the better. A you move farther away from them, the likelihood of an autograph decreases. Even farther away and you chances of getting an autograph drop to zero, as this would force the players to go far out of their way to get to you. Preferential autograph treatment is given to kids, as it should be. My advice is to stand next to a kid, wait for that kid to get his or her autograph, then also get yours signed as well. If a player stops to sign once, he typically will sign a few within the same group of people. DO NOT push a kid out of the way or try to get yours first, you will be chastised by other fans, and probably me. Players/Coaches I have seen give the most Autographs: Cam Newton, Ron Rivera, Luke Kuechly. Practice Viewing Once you arrive at camp, take note of where the blue lifts with the video cameras are situated. Take note on where the video cameras are pointed. This will give you a heads up on which field the main action of the day is located. Most fans will simply sit on the hill. This is a convenient way to watch all of practice in a leisurely manner from an elevated location. The only downside to the hill is the limited shade, so consider bringing an umbrella, and don't forget your sun screen. In the morning, if practices are on the two conjoined fields, my advice is to head to the trees after applying your mosquito repellant. You will be in the shade for a good part of the practice and also will have a great view of the action. I am not kidding on the mosquito repellent. You have been warned. Photography If you are interested in taking photos at camp, I recommend a digital SLR camera with a lens that is capable of 300mm shooting at least. Quarterbacks are easy to photograph, they are stationary and predictable. Other skill positions can be much trickier. During wide receiver drills, the players will typically all run the same route, one after another. Watch the first route, then use that to determine and plan ahead the angle you would like your capture to be. Etiquette There are a couple things that fans do that tend to bother me at practices. Don't yell at the players during practice. They are there, in many cases, fighting for their job. They will not respond to you. Not because they don't hear you, but because they are working. Know the players names if you want an autograph. Yelling "Hey 88" will likely annoy more than impress, making a signed jersey unlikely. Where to Eat Most people will tell you to stop by the Beacon for a burger and fries. This is fine and something everyone must do at some point. My favorite.place, however, is closer to the training Camp. Wade's is a smorgasbord type restaurant. The best thing about it is the fact that when you purchase an entree, you get as many sides as you like. They are all amazing. The Pizza Inn is also a great place to go, especially if you grew up in the 80s. It is a virtual time warp including table top pac-man and 19 inch picture tube televisions, The chocolate pudding typically has a half inch skin on it, roll it up as a snack on the way home. Don't forget to try the chocolate pudding, cutting through the half inch skin is totally worth it. Here is the schedule and the "must attend" practices in my opinion.... Panthers Training Camp Schedule from Panthers.com 2015 CAROLINA PANTHERS TRAINING CAMP PRACTICE SCHEDULE DAY DATE PRACTICE Friday July 31 6:30-8:30 p.m. - Gibbs Stadium Saturday August 1 3:10-5:30 p.m. Sunday August 2 9:25-11:35 a.m. Monday August 3 9:25-11:35 a.m. Tuesday August 4 No Practice Wednesday August 5 9:25-11:35 a.m. Thursday Augutst 6 9:25-11:35 a.m. Friday August 7 7:30-9:30 p.m. - Fan Fest at Bank of America Stadium Saturday August 8 No Practice Sunday August 9 3:10-5:30 p.m. Monday August 10 9:25-11:35 a.m. Tueday August 11 9:25-11:35 a.m. Wednesday August 12 9:25-11:35 a.m. Thursday August 13 No Practice Friday August 14 7:00 p.m. - Preseason Game at Buffalo Bills Saturday August 15 No Practice Sunday August 16 No Practice Monday August 17 3:10-5:30 p.m. Tuesday August 18 9:25-11:35 a.m. Wednesday August 19 8:30-11:00 a.m. - Gibbs Stadium Thursday August 20 8:30-11:00 a.m. - Gibbs Stadium MUST ATTEND! Friday July 31 - First practice of 2015. What else can be said? Sunday August 2 - Play 60 for the kiddos and probably the first practice in full pads. Friday August 7 - Fan Fest at BoA. Really, if you are local and miss this free event you cannot call yourself a Panthers fan. August 19 and 20 - Miami Dolphins are in town and participating in joint practiced before their preseason game against the Panthers. Chances of punches being thrown in the hot Spartanburg sun? 120%.
  45. 4 points
    Every so often in the NFL a player elevates his game in such a way it redefines the game. At this week's Carolina Panthers OTA session, Panthers fullback Mike Tolbert showed he not only has the ability to play quarterback, but succeed at the highest level. Before practice on Thursday, Tolbert gathered his troop of running backs and began his own passing drills, showcasing his form and accuracy to the media. Took note, we did. Tolbert quickly displayed all of the needed skills any successful quarterback in the NFL must posses. Without leadership, a quarterback can never really be considered a success. But leadership is much more than barking orders. It requires different levels of understanding. Tolbert was willing to listen to suggestions from his guys. Tolbert was willing to make corrections and give positive reinforcement when needed. Being a multi-skilled player, Tolbert was also able to explain the finer points of route running and catching the football. His troops listened and executed his instructions to perfection. Indeed, Tolbert's communication ability is top notch. At the end of the session, it was crunch time. Tolbert had just a few seconds more to prove to head coach Ron Rivera he needed to be taken seriously as a quarterback. The media stood and watched as Tolbert put everything together for the winning drive. First, Tolbert had to choose his weapon. Of course, he went with Jonathan Stewart. All smart quarterbacks look to their most valuable players in their greatest time of need. For Tolbert, Stewart was that guy. J-Stew had an idea, a devious play call that he felt comfortable with. Tolbert, knowing when to listen, took in the suggestion from the scheming Stewart. And then, it was time to execute. Stewart made his move on Rookie Cameron Artis-Payne. Then, as quickly as he started, Stewart stopped and just stood there. Mike Tolbert, knowing the exact moment to seize the victory threw a perfectly placed jump ball, taking advantage of Stewart's athletic ability and minimizing any risk of an interception. Stewart leaped majesticly and snatched victory out of the air. So high, in fact, he leaped out of my camera frame. Head coach Ron Rivera took notice, with a look that seemed to be a mix of "wow that was impressive" and "Hey Mike, stop goofing around". The Carolina Panthers now know they have another Pro Bowl caliber quarterback on the roster if in need. Mike Tolbert.... Quarterback.
  46. 4 points
    So yesterday while watching what was a rather boring draft, the Falcons were "on the clock" and I decided to have some fun. I got on twitter and decided to make a post, which you can see below: While I hardly ever tweet, my phone started blowing up with Twitter notifications and in my own way, this kind of went "viral" and fast. And then all of a sudden after hundreds of retweets, I got one comment that grabbed my attention... I checked out their profile for a verified check, and sure enough it was verified! So I messaged them, they gave me a link and instructions to follow, and now long story short, here I am waiting for a FREE custom pair of Q25 headphones that were modeled at the NFL draft. I will be receiving one of these, in panther colors: http://www.bose.com/controller?url=/shop_online/headphones/noise_cancelling_headphones/quietcomfort_25/index.jsp&perfsourceid=K8031425&src=K8031425 So...I make fun of the Falcons, and end up with a free customized $300 pair of headphones. How do I feel about you ask? Thanks Atlanta!
  47. 4 points
    Sometimes a photo is a snapshot of a moment, but sometimes it is a glimpse into the future. Here are 10 photos of the 2014 Carolina Panthers Training camp that have somewhat of a different meaning today. Cam Newton struggles to get situated as he is protected by Amini Silatolu and Nate Chandler. Silatolu and Chandler both ended the season on IR. Both were replaced by players who out performed them. (Remmers and Norwell) Then Special Teams Assistant Bruce Dehaven has been promoted to Special Teams Coordinator, replacing Richard Rodgers. I remember being impressed with Dehaven's demeanor throughout camp. He is hands on and vocal. Bene Benwikere stands confidently in front of Charles Godrey and poses. Benwikere finished the season as one of the highest rated corners in the league as a rookie. Godfrey was released after failing to perform at nickel adequately. Jericho Cotchery signals towards Brenton Bersin. Berin rose above many others in camp and contributed last season with key first down catches. Bersin did struggle in punt returns, but in all fairness he should have never been put in that position. Deangelo Williams embraces Greg Hardy. At the time, no one knew Hardy would only play a single game in 2014. Both Hardy and Deangelo are unlikely to be on the Panthers roster in 2015. Cam Newton receives encouragement from Ken Dorsey after a rough practice. Cam Newton had a rough year, literally. He was roughed up more than any other season due to inadequate line play early. How he is feeling in this photo must have continued well into the 2014 season. Derek Anderson and Kelvin Benjamin develop a chemistry. Without this chemistry, the Panthers could have lost at least one game this season (in Tampa). Getting the backup QB snaps with the starting wide outs is never a bad move. The Panthers face a March without a left tackle. If they allow Byron Bell to become a free agent, there are left with literally no one that could adequately protect Cam Newton's blind side. Cam Newton celebrates a touchdown with rookie Corey Brown. Brown emerged as the Panthers only deep threat this season and provided two much needed touchdowns late in the season. Luke Kuechly intercepts a Cam Newton pass. Kuechly's interception against the Bucs sealed the game and kept the Panthers in the division title hunt. Without it, the Panthers could possibly have missed the playoffs entirely. There you have it, 10 photos from training camp 2014 that have a different meaning today. As always, I will be covering the action through the lens again in 2015 and providing even more extended bonus content to the All-Pro section.
  48. 4 points
    The Panthers improved a great deal as the season went on, mainly due to fresh legs from the rookies and an easier schedule. For the Panthers to take the next step and become a legitimate contender, a few things need to happen. 1. Special Teams Overhaul Throughout the season special teams has been a game changer for the Panthers, and not in a good way. From undisciplined and unprepared schemes (Minnesota) to muffed punt returns (Arizona), the special teams unit is in no way satisfactory. The special teams coaching staff needs replaced and a legitimate punt/kickoff returner needs to be brought in. These two changes alone will have the most bang for the buck over all other improvements that needs to be made. 2. Left Tackle Byron Bell is the lowest ranked free agent on PFF. While PFF is not the end all be all of performance, it does provide a good outline of how guys are generally doing compared to others. The Byron experiment has played out, and it didn't work. Cam regressed a bit this season, I believe from David Carr syndrome early on. Poor protection killed Carr's career, and it began to take its toll on Cam this season. Luckily, the Panthers look pretty good now along the offensive line. Remmers, Turner, Kalil, Norwell ... all good enough to win a championship. All that remains is at the very least a satisfactory free agent left tackle, which would be a marked improvement. 3. Wide Receiver Kelvin Benjamin and Corey Brown are two keepers who should be able to improve and produce under coach Ricky Proehl. Proehl has caught some flack lately, but name for me another wide receivers coach whose two best receivers in the playoffs were rookies (one of them undrafted). The Panthers need another receiver who has the speed to stretch the field. I know many of you are thinking Stephen Hill, and he may still pan out, but I would love to see the Panthers select yet another WR in the first round. It would improve the offense instantly and signal to Cam Newton that the Panthers are serious about providing him with weapons. 4. Faster reads, quicker throws Ever since training camp began, I have voiced my concerns on how dreadfully slow the Panthers passing plays take to develop and for Cam to recognize the open man and make the throw. Cam needs to react less, and anticipate more. I even remarked that every other passing play in camp was a sack. The problem never went away. There needs to be an emphasis this offseason on getting the ball out quicker on passing downs. The key pick six at the end of the Seattle game is a prime example. The routes take forever to develop and everyone is covered. No quick slant over the middle, no quick read out in the flat. Instead of throwing the ball away, Cam Newton tried to force a throw into double coverage and paid the price. All of this must improve if the Panthers hope to be taken seriously in 2015. 5. Safeties It is difficult to complain about the Panthers defense right now. They played their hearts out at the end of the season and got little help from the offense and special teams. For them to stay as effective, they will need to improve at both safety positions. I like Tre Boston and think he showed promise, but he is raw and would benefit from open competition in camp. Roman Harper also played well at the end of the year, but more speed at strong safety would cut down on the numerous big plays allowed. Thomas DeCoud should be released and two new solid prospects either via draft or free agency should be brought in.
  49. 4 points
    Another soggy day in Spartanburg. Today I was the only media photographer on the sidelines. Actually, these days I think of myself as more of a photo blogger. Seems more fitting. On with the observations. When I got to the practice field I noticed for the first time Tre Boston was tossing the ball around with Bene Benwikere. I had just finished speaking with Tre, who is still recovering from a double sports hernia surgery. I had the same surgery a few years ago, and we discussed its lingering effect. Boston hopes to play in a couple of preseason games. I still have a feeling he will be placed on PUP or IR before all is said or done. Thomas Davis and Luke Kuechly usually warm up together. I can really see these two guys staying in touch for decades. They seem more like brothers than teammates. I feel sorry for any opposing player that starts something with either of these guys, something tells me he would have both to deal with in return. Tiquan Underwood is still returning kickoffs. It remains unclear if he will make this team, but I have a sneaking suspicion that he does. He did make a nice play today in the end zone during team drills. If he can just become more consistent he would be a lock. Nate Chandler did not practice today but did perform a few warm up drills. Chandler now has what can be called a lingering knee problem. Garry Williams filled in for him at right tackle. With Philly Brown nursing a tight hamstring, punt return duties were left to Benwikere and Cason. The rain proved to be a good test for these players, making it much more challenging to catch the ball. I can report that there were zero drops between the two of them. They have come a long way since the first day of camp. I did notice Benwikere has a tendency not to watch the ball all the way into his arms. Any highschool coach will tell you this is how balls end up on the ground as they either slip through your elbows or bounce off your chest completely. Hopefully this gets remedied. Today, Coach Rivera put a heavier emphasis on the defense causing turnovers. Different stations were set up where each group would practice a certain aspect of turnover creation. One station was for practicing stripping the ball. Another was for recovering the ball once it was stripped. Coach Rivera remarked after the game that causing turnovers is one area that he expects to see improvement in on Sunday night. During QB drills, one receiver was chosen to stay behind and catch for the group. Kelvin Benjamin, of course, was chosen. He has become an instant favorite with the quarterbacks. And really, who could blame them, he makes them all look good. Darrin Reaves has not moved up the depth chart. He still is only getting a few carries behind Barner. I halfway expected this to change, considering their performances on Friday night. Yes, you heard right. Jonathan Stewart was back on the field today and looked 100%. He showed no sign of being injured and made cuts nicely. During team drills Cam threw a pass to Marcus Lucas that was just a little long. Lucas made the catch, but was out of bounds. Cam gave him the signal that he expected Lucas to tip toe that catch in bounds. Back in the huddle Cam was sure to give him an atta boy for the effort, possibly realizing it wasn't all on him. I was watching Josh Norman today and noticed a troubling trend. Lets see if you can spot it... I am all for a littler jersey grabbing, but this flagrant type will be flagged in most games. At one point during team drills, Tom Nelson lost his footing and fell hard into Richie Brockel. Brockel was not too amused, and threw the ball directly at Nelson. As Nelson reached for a hand up, Brockel walked by him. Coach Rivera then had a few words for Brockel. After practice, Rivera explained what he was telling Brockel. His point was that it was an accident, and this type of accidents happen in games as well. Losing your composure will cost the team penalty yards. Rivera had a good point. This is one thing I really admire about Rivera. He has the ability to take any moment and turn it into a lesson. There was a moment where the entire crowd held their breath. Kelvin Benjamin went down awkwardly while running full speed after a ball. Benjamin sprang back up without any issue at all. It looks like he may be as durable as he is sure handed. It is obvious every day that Cam Newton appreciates Benjamin. FYI... Cam wears an industrial sized towel on his head when it is raining. Hopefully no media wide controversy will develop from it. He isn't often talked about, but Ryan Kalil is probably the single most important player that has aided in Cam's development. That is not to say every snap is perfect, especially in the rain. The ball frequently was on the ground today. I started to feel sorry for the ball boy. I'm not sure how he could be expected to keep the footballs dry in that mess. Wet towels can only help so much. Graham Gano made it back onto the practice field and was perfect on the day. This was great news. Kelvin saw a bit more double coverage today, something he will need to quickly get used to. He will be seeing it frequently. The highlight of practice was Luke Kuechly's interception of Cam Newton on a ball intended for Kelvin Benjamin. This got Luke more pumped up than I have ever seen in camp. He flaunted the ball in front of Kelvin while giving the Heisman pose as Kelvin laughed. If you are going to be shown up, you could do worse than by Luke Kuechly. Two days of camp left, and both session are in full pads. The heat is still on for players to make this roster, and I will be there to document it for you.
  50. 4 points
    In crafting his roster and molding it to his preferences, General Manager Dave Gettleman brought in players via free agency and the draft that are able to compete for playing time right now. In years past, under John Fox, training camp seemed to be a time where the usual suspects in the starting roles got into playing shape knowing their jobs were secured while the bottom half of the roster and depth guys tried to splash an earn a roster spot. These days are long gone. Head Coach Ron Rivera has shown a tendency to make players earn their playing time. Unlike Fox whom often seemed loyal to certain players almost to a fault, Rivera has experimented with different lineups...particularly in the secondary. The days of struggling players getting the nod week in and week out are over and I believe this will be more noticeable this season as we have brought in experienced veterans at positions of need and greatly improved the bottom half our roster. Dave Gettleman, in one of his earliest press conferences with the Panthers, said this was one of his primary goals. I believe he has succeeded and am cautiously optimistic going forward. The free agents brought in coupled with the five players selected in the 2013 NFL Draft have greatly improved the roster overall even if a select few are starting week 1. Here is an inside look at some of the great camp battles that will be heating up in the following months and especially on the fields of Spartanburg: The wide receiver position will likely be the biggest battle of camp. I suspect we place six guys on the active 53 man roster. Excluding the any UDFAs, there are currently ten receivers on the roster. I'd say only four of them are locks going forward. Joe Adams Lamont Bryant Armanti Edwards David Gettis Ted Ginn Domenik Hixon Brandon LaFell Kealoha Pilares James Shaw Steve Smith Next up, the secondary. Between safety and cornerback excluding UDFAs, there are currently thirteen players on the roster. Corners are listed first. I could see another safety added in free agency, potentially. James Dockery Drayton Florence Nick Hixson DJ Moore Captain Munnerlyn Josh Norman Josh Thomas ___________________ DJ Campbell Charles Godfrey Colin Jones Mike Mitchell Haruki Nakamura Anderson Russell In Spartanburg I will have my eye on possibly the most important camp-competition that is essential to this team's success: Guard. I suspect we may bring in another veteran with some of our remaining salary cap. A name to keep in mind is Brandon Moore. Geoff Hangartner Hayworth Hicks Edmund Kugbila Amini Silatolu Justin Wells Zack Williams After our first two selections in this year's draft, the competition to get in on our defensive tackle will be worth a watch. We know several of these guys are locks to make the roster: Nate Chandler Colin Cole Dwan Edwards Sione Fua Frank Kearse Star Lotulelei Kawann Short It is no secret the linebacker position has several locks as well heading into the season. It is a strength of this roster but we cannot keep them all. Jon Beason Chase Blackburn Thomas Davis Doug Hogue AJ Klein Luke Kuechly Jordan Senn Jason Williams Carolina surprised everyone by selecting Oregon running back Kenjon Barner in the sixth round of the draft. Running back has long been a strength on this roster and this year it will be no different. Mike Tolbert is a lock at fullback. I see us keeping four going into the season and we all know the locks to make the final roster: Kenjon Barner Tauren Poole Armond Smith Jonathan Stewart DeAngelo Williams Final Word/TLDR: Gettleman is looking to improve the depth and bottom half of this roster. I believe with the pieces in place he will be successful in just that. Camp competitions should be exciting and the best man will win out and earn a spot. All season long players will be battling in practices to take one another's job and that will improve this team on its own. I really believe our special teams will see great improvements this season if Adams makes the roster along with Barner, and they both are taken under the wing of Ginn. Senn will lead the special teams unit and I am anxious to see Klein out there with him laying the boom. When this team is trimmed down to the final roster of 53, I am confident the 53 will be much better at the top...and throughout the roster to the very bottom. This team can compete right now and competition at some key positions will bring out the best in the 2013 Carolina Panthers. We are due for a healthy, and winning season and if the coaching staff has grown and bettered themselves...we are destined to do some damage.

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