Though you can expect the Panthers to be active in Free Agency this year under a new regime; they will need to have a good draft if they want to make a deeper playoff run this year. Here are some early round targets that can inject some much-needed youth and talent into the Carolina Panthers.Read More
Carolina dropped its second straight game and losing their division lead after starting 4-1. It was an ugly game that the Bears won without scoring an offensive touchdown, gaining only 5 first downs, and throwing only seven passes.Read More
Carolina’s second round pick, Curtis Samuel, strained his hamstring in the first practice of training camp. He hasn’t practiced since. Samuel, in conjunction with Christian McCaffrey, was believed to be a key part of Carolina’s plan to evolve into a faster, more dynamic unit. Bringing speed and versatilityRead More
Luke Kuechly probably feels like he's had another concussion after being beat with concussion related questions dating back to last season. He's missed nine game games in two seasons over it. Six of which he was actually in the concussion protocol. The others last year were after he was cleared and mainly precautionary due to the teams playoff chances and risk of other injury.Read More
One word has summed up the Carolina Panthers off-season for fans, media, and analysts alike... "EVOLVE." Ever since Rivera muttered the phrase in regards to the offense at the end of the season, the outside world has been trying to figure it out. As we have gotten closer to the draft, we may be getting a pretty good idea judging by a few of the prospect visits the Panthers have brought in.
Each season NFL teams are allotted 30 draft prospects to bring in for visits and/or workouts at the team facilities. In most cases, in the Panthers case anyway, these are the players you can start getting the best judge of interest in. There have been three particular players the Panthers have shown interest in that fit roughly the same mold and could help "evolve" this offense and give Cam Newton another weapon. They are RB/WR Christian McCaffrey, RB/WR Curtis Samuel, and RB Alvin Kamara.
In a year where Jonathan Stewart is turning 30 and has battled injuries, seeing Dave Gettleman and Ron Rivera hosting running back prospects isn't surprising. But each of these running backs offer something new to the Panthers offense, and that's the ability to line up outside or in the slot at receiver.
Having a running back with the ability to line up as a receiver can create all kinds of mismatches for opposing defenses. Many question whether offensive coordinator Mike Shula can properly use a player like this, but who really knows as the most versatile player he has had with Carolina was Ted Ginn, who now resides with NFC SOuth rival New Orleans. Between Shula and Cam Newton, Ginn has had the best years of his career in Charlotte. During the 2015 season Shula constantly used Ginn's speed to create mismatches. Like the one here (fast forward to 1:55) where a linebacker was covering Ginn. Good times.
With Ginn in the slot and the Falcons sending a blitzing safety from the left, it left Ginn matched up alone with the linebacker. There was one safety left up top, but Ginn is the only receiver on the three wide set who crosses field, leaving the safety in no man's land with two other receivers to his right. As soon as Newton realizes the safety doesn't adjust, he lofts it up downfield for Ginn to use his speed to go get it.
Now, I'm not comparing Ginn to prospects like McCaffrey, just simply showing what the use of proper mismatches with players who create separation can do. The hottest name surrounding the Panthers draft right now, Christian McCaffrey, has been a master of this in college. You can look up highlights all day, but here's one where he runs a route out of the back field and breaks a linebacker down one-on-one and takes it all the way after finding the seam.
Alvin Kamara shot up teams boards after posting explosive combine numbers. His versatility in both the running and receiving game is what helped land him at Tennessee. That along with his combine performance is what will help him in the NFL as well.
This isn't the big play like McCaffrey's above, but it's a good example of the mismatch caused by the running back motioning out of the backfield. Tennessee scored twice in this game on this exact same play. You'll notice two defenders on one receiver near the back of the end zone leaving Kamara wide open.
Chances are you saw Curtis Samuel of Ohio State play at some point last season. He dominated the final drive in double overtime that propelled the Buckeyes over arch rival Michigan.
Another play where the linebacker matches up with the running back coming out of the back field. The quarterback slightly under-throws the pass here causing a contested catch that Samuel still comes down with. A little more on the pass and it's an easy touchdown catch.
The Panthers have visited with all of these running backs along with Leonard Fournette, who is another hot name associated with the Panthers. These takes here are not a spite to Fournette and his game. I still like Fournette and think he can be successful in the NFL. I also believe he has better hands than many anticipate, but the Panthers need versatility if they are going to truly "evolve" the offense. Having another power running back wouldn't really do that.
With that said, it's also entirely possible Carolina brought in the likes of Curtis Samuel and Alvin Kamara in case they chose not to go McCaffrey at eight. It seems pretty evident the Panthers like Fournette just as much as they do McCaffrey and if he falls to eight, we could see them take him and get either Samuel or Kamara later. They could also go defense at eight if a guy they really like is still there and get one of the two later. The only problem with that is McCaffrey is much more polished in running, receiving, and returning than the other two. Not to mention you are then tying up two draft picks on running backs.
When it all boils down to it, we can only guess what Rivera meant by "evolve." Hell, Gettleman said in his post season presser that it wasn't really the proper term to use, so who knows? Nobody but the people in the front office really know what direction they want to go a week out from the draft. Even they probably still don't know. It could all come down to who falls and who doesn't.
Written By Tripp Morgan
Article thumbnail photo by Jesse Fraetis.
The Panthers will meet with top running back prospect Leonard Fournette out of LSU next week.
Things started stirring on Wednesday when neither head coach Ron Rivera or Dave Gettleman showed up at LSU's pro day. It seems now that's because they knew they would be bringing him to Charlotte to meet. Running backs coach Jim Skipper and offensive coordinator Mike Shula both made the trip to Louisiana for the pro day.
Fournette made another impression when he weighed in at 228 pounds, down from 250 at the combine and back to his college playing weight. When asked about the weight at the combine, Fournette said it was "water weight" and he would be losing it. Fournette commented on this to Charlotte Observer's Jourdan Rodrigue later.
“I think some (teams) wanted to see if I could get down to that size. I think it was a plus for me. ... I might be 250 playing, so I just wanted to show them that I can do what I need to do to get my business in order.”
It seems the closer the draft gets, the chances of Fournette being around at eight are getting slimmer to many. Carolina has stated all off season that they want to be able to run Cam less to help preserve him for the long haul. Jonathan Stewart's recent one-year extension was more of a cap space move than anything else and Fournette could be a bruising replacement when Stewart is gone. But then again.
Then with all of this you have the Christian McCaffrey rumors at an all-time high and he could be a big help in "evolving" the offense and be a key weapon to Cam Newton as well. Buckle up Panthers fans, the next few weeks are going to be interesting.
Written By Tripp Morgan
Article photo by Jesse Fraetis.
Arguably the best tight end in the 2017 draft and fan favorite, O.J. Howard, is scheduled to work out with the Panthers.
Howard went into the combine at 6'6" and weighed 251 lbs, but was able to push out an impressive 4.51- 40 yard dash. Howard is almost assured to be a top 20 pick in the draft with his talent level. According to a report from NFL.com's Connor Orr, Howard is expecting to do a lot of in-line blocking drills with the Panthers, who happen to be his first private workout. Howard has also said he takes pride in blocking, which would play a big part if he were to be on the Panthers offense.
Many want to see the Panthers take Howard with the eighth overall pick, allowing for the offense to get back to 2011 form with the Olsen and Shockey duo while also grooming him behind one of the best tight ends in the NFL in Greg Olsen. This may sound good, but recent Rivera statements have hinted otherwise in a presser with Joe Person of the Charlotte Observer.
“You look at what we’ve got, it’s a very deep position for us right now,” Rivera said. “We like the young guys that are trying to be developed. They’re all young guys that fit what we do, know what we do. They’ve been around. So we feel pretty good about that ... but you never know.”
There's no doubt Howard would be a great addition to the Panthers and have some impact immediately, but the fact is there are more needs, some bigger, at other positions.
Written By Tripp Morgan
Article photo by Jesse Fraetis
Jerricho Cotchery is back to assist with new Panthers wide receivers coach Lance Taylor on Carolina's coaching staff as reported by Black and Blue Review.
“Here’s a guy very familiar with our guys, a guy that was the quiet leader in that group," said Rivera.
Nobody really took over that leadership role for the Panthers receivers in 2016, and it showed. Ginn was the veteran of the group, but has never really had that trait. Carolina's slot receiver position as a whole diminished without Cotchery in 2016 as well.
With Philly Brown and Brenton Bersin both set to be free agents this off season, Panthers brought in Victor Cruz for a visit last month. Carolina could opt to let both go if they can reach a deal with Cruz, or keep one and let the other go. It would likely be Bersin walking as Philly Brown accounted for 27 of the 30 receptions in the slot last season. Panthers also liked rookie Damiere Byrd and may choose to try and implement more of him.
It will be interesting to see how things develop with Cruz going forward. In a radio interview last month after the visit, Cruz said the visit "went well." Having two veterans such as Cotchery and Cruz would be great additions to the locker room and on the field for the younger corps of guys.
Follow @TrippMorgan6 and Cat_Chronicles for news and updates on the Carolina Panthers.
Article thumbnail photo Jesse Fraetis photography.
Written by Tripp Morgan
The Panthers have parted ways with their Pro Bowl fullback Mike Tolbert as first reported by Max Henson on Panthers.com.
“I feel very fortunate to have coached Mike for nearly his entire career,” head coach Ron Rivera said. “He was someone we targeted in 2012 because we felt he would be a good addition to our offense and he was very productive for us. He brought great energy and leadership to our locker room and I wish him the best.”
Tolbert's role diminished pretty heavily following 2013 after suffering a knee injury that limited him to eight games. His 11.6 yards per game in 2016 was a career low.
Tolbert totaled 992 yards 13 touchdowns on the ground and 771 receiving yards with six receiving touchdowns. His ability in the passing game and short yardage situation was his biggest asset for the Panthers in 2012 and 2013.
Tolbert was due $1.5 million in 2017, meaning the release was essentially performance based as the extra money doesn't do much for the Panthers.
It would be interesting to see if the Panthers go with a true blocking fullback moving forward to help open up the run game more.
Follow @TrippMorgan6 and @Cat_Chronicles for the latest news and updates on the Carolina Panthers.
Article photo by Jesse Fraetis photography
Today, February 15th, marks the first day teams are able to start designating their franchise ag on players who could become free agents. For the Panthers and Kawann Short, it's a road they have been trying to avoid, but may end up crossing before the teams deadline of March 1st.
Short led the Panthers pass rush during the 15-1 Super Bowl year with a break out season of 11 sacks. After a slow start in 2016 he finished strong and was ranked the fourth best defensive tackle in the league (87.7) by Pro Football Focus. He finished 2016 with 30 total tackles, 25 assisted, and six sacks. Comparable enough to his breakout 36 tackle, 19 assisted, 11 sack campaign in 2015.
Many fans feared Short may be the next Dave Gettleman finance victim and that he could walk, mainly after drafting defensive tackle Vernon Butler in the first round of the 2016 draft. But a recent statement by Rivera during Super Bowl week that said otherwise.
"Obviously, we'll probably have to tag him,'' Rivera said. "But if we do, so be it. If not, I think they can get a deal done and I'm pretty optimistic about that because KK is a big part of what we do."
Rivera continued later, "Again, we believe up front is the most important part of your team. You've got to be able to stop the run, rush the passer, and I think KK is one of those guys who has that kind of ability."
The estimated tag for Short at defensive tackle is $13.5 million. Short was believed to be seeking around the $17 million range compared to Philadelphia Eagles Fletcher Cox.
When asked at the end of the season about his situation turning out like Josh Norman's last off season, Short was to quick to end it.
"Me and Josh are two different people," Short said. "We walk two totally different sides of the street, at two totally different places, in two totally different directions."
Short was quick to say he would like to avoid the tag, but would obviously still be a professional about the situation.
With Rivera's comments, fans can probably expect to see Short get tagged sooner rather than closer to March 1st.
Written By Tripp Morgan-Follow Him On Twitter @TrippMorgan6
Article Thumbnail Photo by Jesse Fraetis Photography
The Carolina Panthers now have their secondary and wide receiver coaching vacancies filled.
Lance Taylor has been brought in from Stanford, where he was the running backs coach. He was previously an assistant to former wide receivers coach Ricky Proehl with the Panthers in 2013. Taylor was reportedly one of three people Proehl recommended.
Along with Taylor, Curtis Fuller has been named the defensive secondary coach. Fuller had been serving as assistant secondary coach under Steve Wilks, who was recently promoted to defensive coordinator after Sean McDermott landed the head coaching gig in Buffalo.
Jeff Imamura, former Rams defensive quality control coach, will take over Fuller's previous position as assistant.
Head coach Ron Rivera is all about continuity and bringing people up from in house, he showed to have done that here.
Written By Tripp Morgan- Follow Him On Twitter @TrippMorgan6
Article Thumbnail Photo By Jesse Fraetis
In the midst of a tough season, the chemistry in the Panthers locker room has been the most recent in popular talks in the media.
"Zero legitimacy. The thought of a divide in the locker room is nonsense. But it makes for a good story line in sports talk radio, etc," Olsen said.
Following Ron Rivera's benching of franchise quarterback and last years MVP Cam Newton, many believe there could be tension in the locker room. Olsen made it clear that's not the case.
If there's a player whose statement has any validity to it, it would be Olsen's.
Olsen has also once again been named the Panthers nominee for Walter Payton Man of the Year Award for the second consecutive season following Panthers Thomas Davis winning it in 2014. He's a proven veteran that's been in the Panthers locker room since 2011 through the ups and downs.
There's been no evidence otherwise to say any different.
Written By Tripp Morgan. Follow him on Twitter @TrippMorgan6
Article thumbnail credit to Jesse Fraetis Photography.
- Panthers lead series 6-5 in the Ron Rivera era.
- Over the last five meetings, Cam Newton is averaging 269 passing yards per game and 41.8 rushing yards per game. He had 37 first downs and six touchdowns rushing over the first 10 contests.
- Carolina is 2-3 at home this season after boasting the NFL's longest home winning streak at 14 in a row.
- 0-3 in the division to this point and cannot afford a loss to the Saints (or anyone left) if they want to keep pace in the NFC South.
- 1-0 in the NFL's new Thursday Color Rush games with all blue.
- Will look to break 100 yards rushing for the first time in three games.
- Tied for 10th most in sacks given up with 23.
- Defense is 5th in the league with 27 sacks, three back from leading Bills.
- 3rd in NFC South with 4-5 record and 1-1 in the division.
- Lead the NFL in total offense (427.7 YPG) and passing (322.7 YPG).
- Second in NFL in points per game with 29.4 (Atlanta is first with 32).
- Defense is coming off a solid performance against the Broncos, posting 6 sacks.
- Have only rushed for 100 yards or more in four of last eleven meetings against Carolina (Rivera era).
- 3-2 record since defeating the Panthers in New Orleans
- Average 24 points at Bank of America stadium since 2011
Written by Tripp Morgan. Follow him on Twitter @TrippMorgan6
Article pictures of Panthers by Jesse Fraetis photography. www.fraetisphotography.com