2014 DRAFT GUIDE
Panthers look to end long playoff drought in 2013

By STEVE REED - AP Sports Writer
    2013-08-27 11:51

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) - The Carolina Panthers have been a dynamite team in post-Thanksgiving Day games the last two years with a combined 9-3 record.

Problem is those games haven't mattered much.

By starting each of the last two seasons 2-8, the Panthers have rendered the season's stretch run meaningless when it can to the postseason.

Tight end Greg Olsen said if the Panthers hope to return to the playoffs for the first time since 2008, they'll need to start faster this season.

``We can't put ourselves in that hole and think a late six-game push is going to put us over the top when you start the season 2-8,'' Olsen said. ``We need those late-season pushes, but that is to put you into the playoffs not to just salvage a season. And that's kind of how it's been the last couple of years - the games at the end of the season, even though they're good to win, they kind of became meaningless.

``We need to make those games in November and December real and the only way to do that is to put ourselves in playoff contention early.''

---

Here are five things to watch as the Panthers try to end their playoff drought:

CAM NEWTON'S MATURATION: Newton has scored a combined 62 touchdowns and thrown for more yards (7,920) than any quarterback in NFL history his first two seasons in the league. But Newton is 13-19 as a starter since taking over a team that was 2-14 in 2011 and said he needs to be smarter and ``value every possession.'' ``These past two years there were too many series where we put ourselves in bad third down situations,'' Newton said. ``So it's about maximizing every down and perfecting each and every drive.''

RUNNING BACK PRODUCTION: Mike Shula takes over for Rob Chudzinski as the offensive coordinator and while the plays won't change all that much, the philosophy will be tweaked. Shula wants the Panthers to return to a ``more traditional'' running offense. Newton led the team in rushing last season, but Shula would like to cut down on his quarterback's carries. That doesn't mean the Panthers plan to abandon the zone read option altogether, but they certainly won't use it as much as they did under Chudzinski. ``We (as running backs) have always been involved in the running game, but I think we got away from it a few years ago,'' said running back DeAngelo Williams said. ``We got a new offensive coordinator so we're starting off with a clean slate. We'll see how it goes.''

THE FRONT SEVEN: If outside linebackers Jon Beason and Thomas Davis can stay healthy and budding NFL star Luke Kuechly continues to progress, the Panthers have a formidable starting linebacker unit to go along with defensives ends Charles Johnson and Greg Hardy, who combined for 23.5 sacks last year. The Panthers added Star Lotulelei and Kawann Short and re-signed Dwan Edwards - who had six sacks last season - to shore up their defensive tackle position, so the front seven looks to be pretty strong. ``Every defense has an identity, and coming out of the shoot the front seven is certainly what we think on paper will be our strength,'' said Panthers defensive coordinator McDermott. The concern is the secondary where the Panthers don't have a true shutdown corner. Drayton Florence and the undersized Captain Munnerlyn are expected to start at corner and Mike Mitchell appears to have won the starting strong safety spot and will play alongside free safety Charles Godfrey.

RON RIVERA'S FUTURE: Rivera is 13-19 in two seasons and was allowed to keep his job after a meeting with owner Jerry Richardson in January. Rivera insists he's not worried about his job, but another slow start could spell the end of Rivera's tenure in Carolina. This is clearly a make or break year for Rivera.

SPECIAL TEAMS: The Panthers haven't had a big play returner since Steve Smith returned kicks a decade ago, but Rivera believes the team has solved that problem with the acquisition of Ginn. On his first opportunity of the preseason, Ginn returned a punt for a touchdown against the Baltimore Ravens. Ginn was let go by Miami and struggled to find a home in San Francisco, but seems eager to rejuvenate his NFL career with the Panthers.

---

Online: AP NFL website www.pro32.ap.org

---

Follow Steve Reed on Twitter: http://twitter.com/SteveReedAP

Fantasy Football Player Notes RSS FeedPLAYER NOTES

Thaddeus LewisJul 22 10:33a

Buffalo Bills QBs Jeff Tuel and Thaddeus Lewis are alternating series with the second unit in team drills Tuesday, July 22.

Tyler BrayJul 22 09:13a

Kansas City Chiefs QBs Tyler Bray and Chase Daniel are likely to compete for one roster spot with QB Aaron Murray likely to make the team behind starting QB Alex Smith.

Navorro BowmanJul 22 12:13a

San Francisco 49ers LB NaVorro Bowman (knee) will likely return to action in Week 9 after the team's Week 8 bye, according to Matt Barrows of the Sacramento Bee.

Jacques McClendonJul 21 11:03p

Jacksonville Jaguars OG Jacques McClendon is the frontrunner to start at right guard heading into training camp, according to Michael DiRocco of ESPN.com. OG Brandon Linder is the other candidate for the starting job.

Aaron ColvinJul 21 10:53p

Jacksonville Jaguars CB Aaron Colvin (knee) will begin training camp and the regular season on the Physically Unable to Perform list as he recovers from a torn anterior cruciate [ More ]

Jeromy MilesJul 21 10:03p

Baltimore Ravens S Jeromy Miles has seen some reps with the first-team defense this offseason and is a dark horse candidate to win the starting free safety job, according to ESPN.com's Jamison Hensley.

Brandon MosleyJul 21 09:43p

New York Giants OT Brandon Mosley will be given the first chance to start in place of OG Chris Snee when the first-team offensive line takes the field Tuesday, [ More ]

T.J. GrahamJul 21 09:23p

Buffalo Bills WR T.J. Graham had a pass fall through his hands after beating his defender on a deep route in camp Monday, July 21.ESPN.com's Mike Rodak believes Graham [ More ]

Sammy WatkinsJul 21 09:02p

Buffalo Bills WR Sammy Watkins made several big plays in practice Monday, July 21, according to ESPN.com's Mike Rodak. Watkins beat CB Leodis McKelvin deep, hauled in a pass [ More ]

Marvin JonesJul 21 07:03p

Cincinnati Bengals QB A.J. McCarron (shoulder), WR Marvin Jones (ankle) and CB Onterio McCalebb (knee) have been placed on the Non-Football Injury list.

Devon StillJul 21 07:03p

Cincinnati Bengals OG Clint Boling (knee), LB Marquis Flowers (hamstring), P Kevin Huber (neck), WR Colin Lockett (hamstring), DT Zach Minter (back), DT Devon Still (back) and WR Ryan [ More ]

Cordy GlennJul 21 06:53p

Buffalo Bills OT Cordy Glenn (illness) does not have a timetable for his return at this point, according to head coach Doug Marrone. 'I don't know that. It's a [ More ]

Mike CaussinJul 21 06:43p

The Washington Redskins have signed free-agent TE Mike Caussin (Bills). Terms of the contract were not disclosed. The team also waived LS Kyle Nelson.

Cheta OzougwuJul 21 06:32p

New Orleans Saints DE Cheta Ozougwu (undisclosed) and DT John Jenkins (pectoral) have been placed on the Physically Unable to Perform list.

Brennan WilliamsJul 21 06:22p

Houston Texans OT Brennan Williams (undisclosed) has been waived with a failed physical designation.

Brian CushingJul 21 06:22p

Houston Texans DT Louis Nix (undisclosed), LB Brian Cushing (undisclosed) and LB Trevardo Williams (undisclosed) have been placed on the Physically Unable to Perform list.

Eric HaggJul 21 06:13p

Denver Broncos SS Eric Hagg has informed the team that he has decided to retire from professional football.

Dominique EasleyJul 21 05:23p

New England Patriots DT Dominique Easley, RB Roy Finch, LB Deontae Skinner and OT Chris Martin have been placed on the team's non-football injury list.

Alfonzo DennardJul 21 05:23p

New England Patriots CB Alfonzo Dennard (shoulder), WR Aaron Dobson (foot), WR Jeremy Gallon (undisclosed), DT Tommy Kelly (knee) and WR Matthew Slater (undisclosed) will begin training camp on [ More ]

Leon HallJul 21 05:12p

Cincinnati Bengals DT Geno Atkins (knee) and CB Leon Hall (Achilles') will begin training camp on the team's physically unable to perform list.

Jon BeasonJul 21 05:12p

New York Giants LB Jon Beason (foot) will begin training camp on the team's physically unable to perform list.

John JerryJul 21 05:02p

New York Giants OT William Beatty (leg), OG John Jerry (knee) and WR Mario Manningham (knee) will be limited when training camp starts.

Kraig UrbikJul 21 04:33p

Buffalo Bills OT Chris Hairston and OG Kraig Urbik saw first-team repetitions at right guard Monday, July 21.

Dezmon BriscoeJul 21 04:03p

The Dallas Cowboys signed free-agent WR Dezmon Briscoe (Redskins), according to his agent. Terms of the deal were not disclosed.

Phillip HuntJul 21 03:12p

Former Philadelphia Eagles DE Phillip Hunt (knee) has recovered from anterior cruciate ligament surgery and should begin workouts with teams in the near future.

Chris ConteJul 21 02:12p

Chicago Bears FS Chris Conte said he feels good as he recovers from shoulder surgery, but is unsure of his availability for the start of training camp. He could [ More ]

Alameda Ta'amuJul 21 01:53p

Arizona Cardinals DT Alameda Ta'amu (knee) and FS Tyrann Mathieu (knee) are candidates to be placed on the Physically Unable to Perform list at the start of training camp.

David WilsonJul 21 01:42p

New York Giants RB David Wilson (neck) should be able to help the offense if he is able to stay healthy this upcoming season, according to former offensive coordinator [ More ]

Chris SneeJul 21 01:42p

Updating a previous report, New York Giants OG Chris Snee has officially announced his retirement from professional football.

Garrett CelekJul 21 01:22p

San Francisco 49ers TEs Derek Carrier and Garrett Celek will compete for the No. 3 tight end spot during training camp.

De'Anthony ThomasJul 21 01:22p

Kansas City Chiefs RB De'Anthony Thomas spent most of his time with the running backs during practice Monday, July 21. Thomas run a lot of passing routes out of [ More ]

Christopher OwensJul 21 01:13p

Kansas City Chiefs TE Travis Kelce (knee), WR Kyle Williams (knee), WR A.J. Jenkins (hamstring) and CB Christopher Owens (hamstring) participated in practice Monday, July 21.

RSS Feeds

NFL News:
 
Player Notes:
 
Forum Posts:
 

© 2014 RealTime Fantasy Sports, Inc.
Email Us  ·  Call Us 636.447.1170  ·  Lost Password
Advertising represented by USA Today Sports Media Group