Friday, December 25, 2015, 10:17pm
Thursday, December 24, 2015, 6:12pm
The Panthers suffered a few more injury scares during Sunday’s 38-35 win over the Giants, including one involving quarterback Cam Newton, but that isn’t going to cause them to throttle back against the Falcons in Week 16.
During his Monday press conference, coach Ron Rivera said that he’s not going to think about resting any of the team’s healthy starters when there’s value attached to winning a game. The upcoming game against Atlanta has value to the Panthers because they still need to wrap up home field throughout the NFC playoffs, something that pleases Rivera.
“This next game has value. I like the fact that there is value,” Rivera said.
Should the Panthers lose to the Falcons and the Cardinals beat the Packers, that same value will exist for the regular season finale. Even without the impetus to win this week to put the first seed in their back pocket, this weekend would seem to be a bit early to start taking such heavy precautions against injury when you factor in how much time there will be until Carolina plays their first playoff game, the story said. For now, it looks safe to start any active Panthers in Week 16.
QB Cam Newton, tight end Greg Olsen and running back Jonathan Stewart — the Panthers three offensive stalwarts — all had injury scares. Olsen injured his left knee and Stewart his left ankle, prompting Rivera to sit both for the entire second half with the Panthers leading 28-0. They were set to undergo "precautionary MRIs" on Monday, but HC Ron Rivera said after the game both could have gone back in.
Newton banged his funny bone, causing his hand to go numb briefly, but returned after sitting out one play and later threw his third touchdown pass of the game.
The Panthers still need to clinch home field advantage and according to the article, the team plans to play their starters this week to try and wrap things up. It appears Olsen and Stewart will be good to go. But then, it will become a battle between going for a perfect season or resting players down the stretch.
Monday, December 14, 2015, 10:35am
The snap counts reveal that only three Carolina players were on the field for every down.
Running back Jonathan Stewart, who had gone eight consecutive games with 20-plus carries, was in for just 19 snaps.
The story went on to say there are no guarantees the Panthers (13-0) will build big leads in their final three games as they continue to pursue a perfect regular season record. But Sunday’s snap counts show that Rivera is taking advantage of opportunities when they arise.
Let’s say the Carolina Panthers get to 15-0 and have home-field advantage throughout the playoffs secured. Would coach Ron Rivera rest starters such as quarterback Cam Newton and running back Jonathan Stewart at the potential cost of a perfect season?
“The goal is not to go 16-0 or undefeated," Rivera said Monday. “The goal is to win the Super Bowl."
Having said that, Rivera wasn’t ready to say -- hypothetically speaking -- that he would sit key starters in the above scenario.
He did recall being an assistant coach with another team that held out starters down the stretch with a division crown secured.
“I wasn’t the head coach then, but I went along with it," Rivera said. “Unfortunately, I felt we were rusty coming out of it.
“To me we’ve got to do it smart, we’ve got to be judicious about how we do it, hypothetically speaking. But that’s my thought process now. We’ll do it as we need it."
Newton took several hard hits in Sunday’s 41-38 victory over the Saints, after learning the Panthers (12-0) wrapped up the NFC South title prior to kickoff because of a Falcons loss. The last thing Rivera wants is to go into the playoffs with his quarterback injured. The Panthers have a two-game lead over the Cardinals (10-2) for the best record in the NFC. The quicker the Panthers would wrap up home field, the more Newton owners will have to worry about him possibly not finishing games.
Then, apparently, he had to take a leak.
Somewhere in that brief visit to the men’s room/locker room, Newton was checked for a concussion and cleared by an independent neurologist.
“Well, I got hit. I deserved to get hit to be honest with you, looking back at it,” Newton said, via Bill Voth of Black and Blue Review. "I had to use the bathroom and I told the team doctors can we do the (concussion) protocol in the back? And when I came in and used the restroom, I think his name was Dr. Heck, came in and did the concussion protocol with our team doctor, and asked me numerous questions like the days of the week, and how many turnovers we had in the game – and I told him I was fine.”
As the story said, Newton didn't come out of the game after the hit and was right back on the field for the next series.
The second-round pick out of Michigan caught three passes for 71 yards and a touchdown. He had only 90 yards receiving entering the game.
I thought the snap counts might increase after Funchess caught a 14-yard pass over the middle in traffic against New Orleans in Week 3, but it didn’t happen. After getting snaps the following week against Tampa Bay, he went from 24, 18 and then 10 snaps against Indianapolis.
But the performance against Green Bay felt different. The 52-yarder he caught over the middle with tight defense gave you a glimpse of what the Panthers saw when they drafted him and what they have seen in practice. That was a huge confidence builder. Then came the 14-yard touchdown. Funchess was so excited that he wouldn’t give the ball to quarterback Cam Newton for his “Sunday Giveaway’’ program to kids. Newton understood and let Funchess keep the ball.
The author said he can see Carolina increasing Funchess’ role, but probably not to the level of Kelvin Benjamin. Funchess can play all three receiver positions, and he creates mismatches against smaller defensive backs that the Panthers were looking for when they drafted him. There typically comes a point with every rookie receiver where things begin to click. If the Green Bay game was one for Funchess, the Panthers won’t have any choice but to increase his snaps, the story said.
Newton will become the first quarterback in NFL history to attempt at least 200 passes and rush 140 times in a season if he continues on his pace of 9.1 rushes a game, according to ESPN Stats & Information.
Newton already has eclipsed 200 pass attempts with 246. He's rushed 73 times for 343 yards, which ranks 31st in the NFL but first among quarterbacks.
The most rushing attempts Newton has had in his previous four seasons was 127 in 2012.
So this begs the question: Is Newton running too much?
There was a time last season when Carolina coach Ron Rivera thought so. He expressed concern about the injury risk his franchise quarterback faced if he continued to run at a high rate.
Rivera re-iterated that again this year after Newton carried 14 times for 35 yards in the opener at Jacksonville. He said six to eight carries a game would be preferable with two of three of those sneaks, two zone reads and a couple of scrambles. But with Newton fully recovered from 2014 surgery to repair his left ankle, Rivera and offensive coordinator Mike Shula finally have come to grips with letting Newton be who he is.
Newton is calling an audible 30 to 40 percent of the time, up from previous seasons. He's getting more designed rushes than ever out of the read option. It's great news for fantasy owners and bad news for Jonathan Stewart owners, but there's always a risk of injury if Cam keeps up this pace. As long as he continues to be smart about his running, he'll continue to produce for fantasy owners.
Chud brings ample NFL offensive experience to the coordinator position. From 2012-2013, Chudzinski was the coordinator in Carolina for Cam Newton’s first two NFL seasons. With Newton, Chud helped the Panthers offense go from the worst unit in the NFL in 2010 to a top-10 offense the next two seasons.
In earlier NFL stops, Chud worked with the tight ends in Cleveland and San Diego.
Chud arrived in Indianapolis last season after he spent 2013 as the head coach of the Cleveland Browns (4-12 record).
With the Colts, Chud has been a special assistant and is the current associate head coach. His duties have spanned both sides of the football during his two seasons in Indianapolis.
Chuck Pagano is very familiar with Chud, the story went on to say. The two served together on the University of Miami coaching staff in the late 1990s. Chud played a part in recruiting and coaching both Frank Gore and Andre Johnson at “The U”. That could be good news in terms of getting those players going from a fantasy perspective. At this point in the season, it's hard to expect a lot of change for the offense and it could be a move Pagano was forced to make to save his head coaching job.
Yet Carolina's offensive coordinator isn't about to put Newton in shackles when it comes to running out of the read-option or scrambling from the pocket — despite the obvious increased risk of injury.
"You have to let him play, give him the ability to do what he does best," Shula told The Associated Press. "And you have to appreciate that Cam understands that, too. He's not going to play cautiously, but he's going to play smart."
Shula said he doesn't mind if the 6-foot-5, 245-pound Newton takes on a defender one on one — in fact with his size, he likes those odds — but said he wants the fifth-year quarterback to "get down" if multiple defenders engage him in the open field. Newton runs the ball more than any quarterback in the NFL, averaging 642 yards rushing per season, with 33 touchdowns the last four seasons. Some scrambling QB know how to play smart and some don't. Fantasy owners should be able to enjoy the added bonus of Newton's rushing yards but they'll also need him to stay healthy and on the field.
Monday, August 31, 2015, 2:33pm
This is starting to sound like a broken record, but Panthers wide receiver Corey Brown had two more drops that stood out. The first happened on the first play of team drills. The second occurred later in the left corner of the end zone when Brown got two hands on a high pass from Cam Newton and lost the ball as he hit the ground.
These came after he dropped four passes in Friday night's 17-16 loss to New England and two the week before against Miami. Brown worked with wide receivers coach Ricky Proehl on a few things before practice. One was attacking the ball instead of waiting for it to come to him as he did against the Patriots.
There remain a few kinks to work out there. When Brown caught a pass later in practice, he cradled it to the ground like he was making a fair catch on a punt.
Ever since Kelvin Benjamin went down, the Panther WRs have struggled with either drops or injuries, including rookie Devin Funchess who is expected to be the team's top WR in terms of fantasy production. We have Brown ranked second among Panther WRs but the drops aren't a good sign at least in terms of trust with Newton.
Monday, August 24, 2015, 2:49pm
They were like brothers almost immediately, whether they were combining for big plays on the field or delivering Christmas presents to students of local schools off the field.
Newton didn’t return to practice on Wednesday when Benjamin suffered a season-ending ACL injury until he helped the 6-foot-5, 240-pound receiver onto the cart. He predicts there will be “hell to pay" when Benjamin returns in 2016.
Meanwhile, look for Newton to build a similar relationship with 2015 second-round pick Devin Funchess.
“He has to learn at an accelerated rate, but I’m taking him up under my wing," Newton said after Friday’s preseason victory over Miami. “I have full confidence in Devin that he gets it, sooner rather than later."
Funchess sat out of the 31-30 victory against the Dolphins with a tight hamstring, but he is expected to be ready for Friday night’s game against the defending Super Bowl champion New England Patriots. The plan was to have him on the field for Monday's practice as the Panthers begin the Charlotte practice phase of their preseason. Funchess could very well turn out to the be the team's WR1 this year, much like Benjamin ended up last year. He's bumped up our rankings to 45th.
Monday, August 3, 2015, 5:35pm
Don’t blame left tackle Michael Oher, though. HC Ron Rivera thought Oher practiced better on Sunday than media reported, and likes what he’s seen from Oher so far.
We've had recent news items that stated the Panthers want to be a top offense this year and think they have the weapons around Newton to do that. But, the team will need to improve up front and it appears, at least right now, the blocking is still an issue that could hold back the Panthers offense.
Sunday, August 2, 2015, 9:19am
"Our main goal now is to become the No. 1 offense in the league," Newton told ESPN.com. "And I'm not just blowing smoke when I said that."
The Panthers ranked 16th in the NFL in total offense last season with 346.6 yards a game despite an injury-plagued offensive line and a completely rebuilt wide receiving corps.
Newton missed two starts, the opener with fractured ribs and a December game with broken bones in his lower back suffered in a car crash. He also was limited as a runner in the first five-and-a-half games after undergoing offseason ankle surgery.
But Newton believes he understands the game better than ever. Because of upgrades at wide receiver and on the offensive line, the potential is there to be No. 1.
"We have endless potential, but that hasn't done anything for anybody in this league," Newton said.
The story went on to say since arriving at Carolina as the first pick of the 2011 draft, the Panthers have been ranked no higher than seventh in total offense. That was during Newton's rookie season. Carolina ranked 26th in 2013 when it went 12-4 and Newton went to the Pro Bowl. The story went on to say Newton showed his improved knowledge of the game with a play coach Ron Rivera noted after Friday night's practice. The fifth-year player suckered the defense in, then ran a naked bootleg and went over the top with a deep pass to Jerricho Cotchery. There are a lot of impressive offenses in the league, but with improvement at the WR position, a very good TE in Greg Olsen and Jonathan Stewart at RB, the potential is certainly there to at least finish among the leaders in overall offense.
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