In this new Pewter Insider feature, Pewter Report investigates opposing teams through the eyes of those who follow the Bucs’ opponents daily. In this first installment, PR interviews Joe Person, beat writer for the Charlotte Observer who has been covering the Panthers for the last three years.
In this new Pewter Insider feature, Pewter Report investigates opposing teams through the eyes of those who follow the Bucs’ opponents daily. In this first installment, PR interviews Joe Person, beat writer for the Charlotte Observer who has been covering the Panthers for three years, beginning with their last season under John Fox.This Pewter Insider feature is being provided free to all followers of
Pewter Report. To see future Behind Enemy Lines and all of Pewter
Report’s one-of-a-kind analysis, subscribe and become a Pewter Report Insider today. Call 1-800-881-BUCS (2827)How are the Panthers different under Head Coach Ron Rivera than under previous coach John Fox?
"It was very dysfunctional in Fox’s last year. He knew he was getting fired, and the players knew it. It was not a good situation from day one. They needed a fresh start. John needed one, and the Panthers needed one. This team is pretty upbeat. Rivera is a relatively young guy, and the players respect Ron because he played in the league and was a grinder who worked his way up. He was not a star on the Bears, playing behind Mike Singletary and Otis Wilson, and he had to take the same path in coaching, being an assistant coach for a while before getting a head coaching job. He’s upbeat and commands a lot of respect in the locker room."What are the strongest, and weakest, units on the Panthers?
"Offensively, this team is strong across the board, except for depth at wide receiver. I’m not sold on some of the guys behind Steve Smith. Defensively, the linebacker corps is really good. First-round pick Luke Kuechly is the real deal. He might even be better than predicted. We all knew that he could play the run, but in camp and preseason he’s been surprisingly good in pass e defensive weak spot is Carolina’s defensive line, by far. There’s not much of a pass rush outside of defensive end Charles Johnson, and the defensive tackles are average at best. The secondary, too, is a problem. I think the Panthers may struggle defensively early on."
If you were the Carolina coaches, how would you attack the Tampa Bay Buccaneers?
"I think they’re just going to try to do what they do well [as opposed to installing a special game-plan for the Bucs]."What are the things that Cam Newton is working to improve?
"Decision-making mostly. Newton had 17 interceptions last year and was sacked 35 times. Rivera said Wednesday that Cam often wants to go for the big play, the home run pass, but the coaches want him to check down and take the safer pass in certain coverages."If it’s 3rd and short, is the Panthers’ offense more likely to run, pass, or just let Cam Newton figure it out?
"That’s the million dollar question. When they signed former Charger fullback Mike Tolbert, who was a short-yardage specialist in San Diego, we all assumed that he would get touches towards the goal line. We didn’t really see that in preseason. Cam does not like to give up the rock down there. He likes to smell the end zone, so it will be interesting to see how that develops. At the goal line, I think Newton is most likely to run left."Are there any Carolina players that may be flying under the radar?
"Tight end Greg Olsen might fit that category. He’s a guy who had to share catches last year with Jeremy Shockey, but still had a solid season. With Shockey gone, I think Olsen could really take off this year, maybe not like Rob Gronkowski or Jimmy Graham, but he could put up some pretty big numbers."What have you seen during the preseason that has impressed, surprised or bothered you about Carolina?
"Luke Kuechly has impressed, obviously. We were surprised when they let kicker Olindo Mare go. The safe, easy decision would have been to stick with him, but the longer the preseason went along, it was clear that Mare doesn’t have the leg anymore. He was short on every 50-yard attempt, not even getting the ball to the crossbar. The Panthers kept a young guy at kicker, Justin Medlock. He has a huge leg and played pretty well in Canada for a few years, but the main concern with him is whether he can handle the pressure and butterflies of the big stage. The Panthers won’t really know about him until the games start to count this weekend."Does Carolina have any serious health concerns, or depth problems, going into the Week One game against the Bucs?
"Wide Receiver Steve Smith is back at 100% after a foot infection. The only injury they’re kind of monitoring is running back Jonathan Stewart, who has a sprained ankle. He hasn’t practiced over the last two weeks [and aggravated his ankle with a strenuous workout on Monday]. But Stewart plays a position that might be Carolina’s deepest."– Robert Levine contributed to this report
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