Monthly Archives: August 2013

Carolina Panthers Set 53-Man Roster With Cuts

The Carolina Panthers have made the following roster moves to reach the NFL’s mandatory 53-man roster limit. Most notably, four-year veteran quarterback Jimmy Clausen, as well as four-year veteran wide receiver David Gettis, were placed on the Waived/Injured list. 11-year veteran cornerback Drayton Florence was placed on the Terminated Veteran List.

Jimmy Clausen, 4-year veteran quarterback from Notre Dame, was waived today by the Carolina Panthers
Jimmy Clausen, 4-year veteran quarterback from Notre Dame, was waived today by the Carolina Panthers

15 players were waived:

Brenton Berson, WR
Garrett Chisolm, T
Dominique Curry, TE
Sione Fua, DT
Hayworth Hicks, G
Doug Hogue, LB
Taulib Ikharo, WR
Ben Jacobs, LB
Robert Lester, S
Tori Mobley, G
Zack Pianalto, TE
Tauren Poole, RB
Craig Roh, DE
James Shaw, WR
Casey Walker, DT

Four players were placed on the Waived/Injured List:

D.J. Campbell, S
Jimmy Clausen, QB
David Gettis, WR
Anderson Russell, S

Three players were placed on the Terminated Vested Veteran list:

Patrick Brown, T
Drayton Florence, CB
Jason Williams, LB

This does not mean that the remaining 53 players will be the actual players on the opening day roster as teams can pick up waived players. The Panthers open the season Sunday, Sept. 8, at home against the Seattle Seahawks.

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Carolina Panthers make four roster moves

The Carolina Panthers reached the league-mandated 75-player roster limit Tuesday night by making four moves.

Jonathan Stewart, who is still recovering from off-season surgery, was placed on the Reserve/Physically Unable to Perform list. After meeting with a foot specialist on Tuesday about his surgically repaired right ankle, Stewart will begin the season on the physically unable to perform list. “I can spend all my energy being disappointed, or spend all my energy preparing myself,” Stewart said following Tuesday’s practice. “It’s just got to heal up.”

Carolina Panthers running back Jonathan Stewart in action last season. He is showing a very positive attitude knowing he will miss at least four games this year.
Carolina Panthers running back Jonathan Stewart in action last season. He is showing a very positive attitude knowing he will miss at least four games this year.

“Our doctors and trainers have been going at it, figuring things out – solutions here and there,” Stewart said. “We’ve put a lot of brainpower behind it. So we’re working at it.”

“He’s made some big strides, some real good things have happened,” Panthers coach Ron Rivera added. “It’s just they’re not going to happen soon enough. So in order to help us as a football team, this is the best move that we could make.”

Stewart, who has been on the preseason PUP list, will be out a minimum of six weeks and is eligible to return in Week 7. He will miss at least five games (the Panthers have a bye in Week 4). This move also opens the door for DeAngelo Williams to get more carries…something he has wanted for the last two seasons.

The two veterans who were placed on the Waived/Injured list are second-year wide receiver/kick returner Joe Adams and third-year defensive tackle Frank Kearse. Adams started last year as the team’s kick and punt returner after Carolina drafted him in the fourth round out of Arkansas. He struggled with controlling the ball, fumbling away a kickoff and muffing a punt in Week 3 against the Giants. Rivera said he believed Kearse injured his knee during the Philadelphia game, but snap counts show it likely happened during the Chicago game since he did not play against the Eagles.

Should they clear waivers and no team picks them up, both players will automatically revert to the Panthers’ injured reserve. Michael Zordich, Kealoha Pilares and Bruce Campbell reverted to the Panthers’ IR Tuesday.

Guard Edmund Kugbila, Carolina’s fourth-round draft pick from April, has been injured most of his time with Carolina, has been placed on the Injured/Reserve list. He struggled all spring and summer with knee and hamstring injuries. Kugbila, a 6-foot-4, 325-pound lineman from Division II Valdosta State, missed nearly all of spring workouts with a sore knee and he strained his hamstring during the first practice of training camp in July. He attempted to practice later in camp but suffered a setback and did not finish the practice session. He is done for the year.

Carolina Panthers cut 9 players; place 3 on waived/injured list

CHARLOTTE, NC – The Carolina Panthers, in a move to begin trimming their roster to 75 by Tuesday’s deadline, cut nine players today and placed three on the waived/ injured list.

The nine cut players were:

QB Colby Cameron, P Jordan Gay, CB Nick Hixson. K Morgan Lineberry, WR Dale Moss, DE Louis Nzegwu, LB Ryan Rau, S Ricardo Silva and G Justin Wells.

Kealoha Pilares was injured on the opening kickoff Thursday night against the Baltimore Ravens and has been placed on the waived/injured list.
Kealoha Pilares was injured on the opening kickoff Thursday night against the Baltimore Ravens and has been placed on the waived/injured list.

T Bruce Campbell, WR Kealoha Pilares and FB Michael Zordich were placed on the waived/injured list. These players revert back to the club’s injured reserve list upon the next waiver period. Campbell and Zordich were expected to be on this list, as Campbell underwent surgery to repair a rotator cuff injury and Zordich tore his ACL this preseason. Pilares injured his knee on the opening kickoff of the Thursday night game at Baltimore.

None of the cuts are surprising. The Panthers may only keep two quarterbacks, and still have three on the roster. Gay and Lineberry provided meager competition for incumbent kickers punter Brad Nortman and placekicker Graham Gano. The Panthers are deep in linebackers and defensive ends, so no surprise there.

Three more cuts (not including Jonathan Stewart who is on the active PUP list) will be necessary by Tuesday. Carolina must then make more cuts to reach their final 53-man roster by Saturday afternoon.

Carolina Panthers’ 4 defensive TD’s help defeat Baltimore, 34-27

BALTIMORE, MD – The Carolina Panthers made the most of mistakes by the defending Super Bowl champions, the Baltimore Ravens, to win at M&T Stadium, 34-27. This, however, does not mean things are good all around. Once again, the first-team offense did not perform to the levels at which it must in order to be a factor in the NFC South race this season.

Ted Ginn., Jr's first touch as a Panther kick returner was a good one...a 74 yard return of a Sam Koch punt in the first quarter Thursday night.
Ted Ginn., Jr’s first touch as a Panther kick returner was a good one…a 74 yard return of a Sam Koch punt in the first quarter Thursday night.

Ted Ginn, Jr. returned the first punt he has seen since he played the Ravens in last year’s Super Bowl 74 yards, basically untouched, to start the highlights. Other defensive plays that led to touchdowns included interceptions by Drayton Florence (71 yards) and D.J. Moore (33 yards) plus a fumble recovery (2 yards) by linebacker Thomas Davis. If this were the regular season and you played the Panthers’ defense in your fantasy league, you’d be crowing about it today.

“Today was the first time I got a live punt. I just did what I do in practice, get the ball and get upfield,” Ginn said. “Without my other 10 guys I was nothing. I made a guy miss, but everybody picked up a block and got on their man.”

“I think Ted Ginn did a great job of getting the game going for us. He went out there and scored and got a spark into everybody. And then the defense went out and took care of business,” said rookie defensive tackle Star Lotulelei, who had a sack and three tackles for loss. Lotulelei and Kawann Short, another 2013 draftee, played their best game to date, taking up room and creating defensive opportunities.

Quarterback Cam Newton was under duress during his playing time, and did not have a good game. He was sacked three times and hurried on several other plays. He completed 10 of 19 passes for 99 yards, and had a 67.7 quarterback rating. “When the defense plays like that, I feel like we let those guys down,” a disappointed Newton said.

His six drives resulted in two field goals and four punts. The Panthers’ first-team offense has gone more than two games without a touchdown, spanning 12 possessions since a first-quarter touchdown against Chicago two weeks ago. And that has been the only touchdown drive in 14 exhibition series – covering just 18 yards after a takeaway. The other possessions have produced eight punts, four field goals and a Newton interception that was returned for a touchdown.

When the starters departed after three quarters, the Ravens had outgained Carolina 290 to 104 and had run nearly twice as many plays – 62-33.
“When you score (four) touchdowns on defense and special teams, the offense doesn’t get back out there. The opportunities are limited,” Coach Ron Rivera said. “Now having said that, (3.5) yards on average (per) offensive play is not good enough. Not in this league, if we expect to win football games. We cannot accept that.”

Rivera lamented the dropped passes and missed blocks, and said they “will be addressed and corrected.”

Luke Kuechly's punishing tackle of Baltimore's Bernard Pierce, set the tone for the night.
Luke Kuechly’s punishing tackle of Baltimore’s Bernard Pierce, set the tone for the night.

The Panthers’ defense proved to be their best offense. Second-year middle linebacker Luke Kuechly demonstrated again he is one of the game’s emerging stars. (And ESPN’s Jon Gruden even went as far as saying he felt Kuechly would be the league’s defensive MVP one day.)
Kuechly forced the fumble on Davis’ touchdown, blowing up running back Bernard Pierce and knocking the ball loose. Kuechly, the Associated Press Defensive Rookie of the Year in 2012, had seven first-half tackles and an interception of Joe Flacco.

“We’ve had quite a few turnovers in each game and that’s huge for us,” Kuechly said. “Any time you can score 21 points on defense and score a touchdown on special teams, hopefully you can get a win from that.”

GAME NOTES:
*It is not certain, but quite possibly the four defensive touchdowns in the game was a preseason record. No one could remember a game featuring such an outburst by the defense. The Panthers’ front seven can dominate…it’s the defensive backfield that remains a question, especially when Captain Munnerlyn left the game with an injured arm (X-rays proved negative).

*Both teams struggled with their offenses…The Ravens first drive looked like they were playing against a high school team, as Flacco was perfect with his passing and Marshal Yanda leading the way for Ray Rice’s rushing. Flacco had another subpar performance (73.1 quarterback rating), his third of the preseason, and didn’t move well in the pocket when pressured. The Panthers harassed Flacco quite often in the first period, and some of the miscues weren’t his fault.

*Next week’s game will not feature many of the starters, as the team prepares to cut down to the 53-man roster, and needs to make some decisions. Injuries are not helping players, and the starters need to be focusing on the home opener against Seattle (which means playing another quick-tempo team).

Carolina Panther break camp and prepare for Eagles game

SPARTANBURG, SC – The Carolina Panthers ended part one of training camp this morning with a quick-paced practice as they prepped for their Thursday night game at the Philadelphia Eagles. Under new head coach Chip Kelly, the Eagles ran 86 offensive plays in their preseason opener against New England, far more than the average NFL team, so the pace needed to be quick.

Carolina Panthers head coach Ron Rivera was in a good mood at the start of Tuesday morning's practice.
Carolina Panthers head coach Ron Rivera was in a good mood at the start of Tuesday morning’s practice.

Panthers coach Ron Rivera has been pleased with the practices at Wofford College, but reminded everyone, they are far from through. Today’s practice started nicely. “It was really good, really smooth. A lot of good things happened. We slowed down at the end. You could tell the guys were thinking of I-85 (the road from Spartanburg back home to Charlotte). The beginning of practice was good and smooth, but by the end, you could kind of tell they were wandering and I think they were thinking about going home. I wish they could have finished practice focused all the way through.”

Talking to the team after practice, Rivera stressed staying focused. “We can’t have distractions. I know this is our move…we’re going to be back in Charlotte the next time we get together and we’ve got to be able to stay focused and get ready to go up to Philadelphia to play them.”

Upon hearing the final air horn, Rivera said, “I was trying to think of what to say to these guys about being safe. The natural response is to try and get home as quick as you can and I just want them to be safe. It (the final horn) signifies the end of camp here and the beginning of camp in Charlotte. I’m trying to get these guys to understand we’re still in training camp basically, we’ve just moved from here back to Charlotte.”

With the new training camp rules, Rivera said he feels the Panthers accomplished a lot. “I really feel good about what we did, the way we did things, the way we changed schedules… some of the periods we added, some of the periods we took out…I really do feel good. I think it showed in the way we played the other night (a 24-17 win over the Chicago Bears on Friday). We were physical and aggressive, much more than we have been in the past in the first preseason game.”

Rivera was very pleased with nine on seven drills. “We had good tempo, they had a nice thud tempo and they were physical. I though that was good. It is a long practice. It’s funny, people talk about in my day we did double days, they weren’t two-and-a-half hour practices or two-hour-and-15 minute practices. They were an hour-forty-five. Today because of the way the rules are, you’ve got to put so many periods in, you’ve got to get so much done and you have a three-hour window to do it. It’s hard to keep focused…it’s hard to do because something happens…You know, something shiny and all of a sudden guys are distracted…that’s a part of it.”

To keep the players sharp, the coaching staff has been using two periods of physical play followed by an installation period and a special teams period. “Then we bring them back. Any time you can help these guys stay focused, you’re going to accomplish a lot. And I think we accomplished a lot.”

Carolina Panthers rookie running back and kick returner Kenjon Barner was one of several players mentioned as surprises in camp by Coach Ron Rivera
Carolina Panthers rookie running back and kick returner Kenjon Barner was one of several players mentioned as surprises in camp by Coach Ron Rivera

Rivera singled our Atmanti Edwards as a real surprise of camp. Edwards has been playing wide receiver as well as handling kick returns. “I like what we’ve got from Kenjon Barner (rookie running back from Oregon). I think he’s an exciting kid.” Tauren Poole (second-year running back from Tennessee) was also mentioned, as was veteran running back DeAngelo Williams, who is showing a lot of growth. Charles Godfrey (a veteran safety) has been a standout during the first three weeks of camp also.

The third-year head coach also has liked the consistency of veteran wide receiver Brandon LaFell as well as the veteran leadership from Steve Smith (receiver) and Jordan Gross (offensive tackle). He likes both the offensive and defensive lines, plus Rivera loves the linebacking crew. And then there’s Cam Newton…the third-year quarterback. His leadership has been questioned in the past, but Rivera is seeing some real growth from No. 1 this year.

Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton is maturing and improving.
Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton is maturing and improving.

“Probably the one thing…and I think about this…I really like how Cam is starting to step-up and exhibit that leadership you are looking for with your quarterback when he’s on the field. He’s still growing…still maturing. He did a lot of good things in this camp and I think the future for this team is positive. It’s heading in the right direction, but you won’t know until you start playing.”

When asked about the health of certain players, especially veteran linebacker Jon Beason and veteran running back Jonathan Stewart, Rivera could not say whether they would start the season on the PUP (physically unable to play) list or not. “We’ll see. Again, it’s a matter of how they are improving in terms of their health. I can’t predict that.” He has not heard they could be out 6 or 7 weeks, which is a good sign.

Depth is a source of concern for the coaching staff because of the injuries – the little knick-knack injuries we’ve had. I’d like to think we are answering the question at right guard. I would have loved to have (Edmund) Kugbila (fourth round pick) out this week, but unfortunately not, hopefully next week he’ll be back. But, if not, Garry Williams has done a great job at right guard this week, and we’re excited about that. Depth at tight end is a little bit of a question. Brandon Williams is stepping up so that’s helped us. Strong safety – Mike Mitchell has kind of taken the bull by the horns there. I’m not as concerned about cornerback as people think. Those guys are fighting it out and we’re going to have a tough decision in terms of who is going to earn that spot so I’m not concerned about it as much as like anyone else, I’m curious as to who’s going to step up there.

Nate Chandler has been great at left tackle. He’s an athletic guy…very physical. He played well the other night. His run blocking really stood out and seeing his athleticism learning the position of left tackle. We’re excited and we hope he continues to grow and get better.”

The Panthers fly to Philadelphia tomorrow, play at Lincoln Financial Field Thursday evening, and return to Charlotte after the contest. They will practice at their Charlotte facility this weekend.

CAMP NOTES:
*My observation this year leads me to believe this Panthers’ team is more focused on the big picture. The players know they are in a very tough division, with two teams, New Orleans and Atlanta, ahead of them. In order to gain a playoff spot, those are the teams you must beat. Camp was faster-paced overall, and Cam Newton was all business. Even his backup, Derek Anderson, was very focused.

*The defense had its back to the offense today, turning around at the clap coming out of the huddle. This was done to prepare for the fast-paced Philadelphia Eagles offense.

*Domenik Hixson, a veteran wide receiver, has been nursing a hamstring injury. He said, “You go out there too early and have something happen, it could be even more devastating than a strain.” Safety first, is the Panthers’ credo this summer.

*The team took steps to limit soft-tissue injuries, but injuries happen. They did avoid major injuries to starters, though.

*Offensive tackle Byron Bell left practice early due to illness. Coach Rivera said there is a bug (stomach) going around camp.

Carolina Panthers defeat Bears in sloppy preseason opener, 24-17

The Carolina Panthers opened the 2013 preseason with a sloppy 24-17 win over the Chicago Bears. Josh Norman, a second-year cornerback out of Coastal Carolina, lost his starting spot late last season was outstanding for the Panthers’ defense. His two interceptions – one setting up a score and the other returned for a touchdown – was the result of his hard work during training camp in Spartanburg.

“I don’t know if I would say redemption. I just feel like it’s hard work paying off,” Norman said. All the hard work I put into the offseason, all the work I’ve been doing and practicing and understanding the concepts of everything. And just my study habits have gotten a whole lot better.”

Panthers coach Ron Rivera was pleased with the play of Norman Friday night. “He’s a ball-hawk,” Rivera said. “He’s got the ability to make plays. We saw that last year and I really do believe he’s having a solid camp.”

Overall, it was a sloppy game – typical of an early-August exhibition. The teams combined for seven turnovers, including four by Carolina.

The first was a pick-six thrown by quarterback Cam Newton in the first quarter. Up until that point, things were going well for the home team. Newton was trying to hit tight end Greg Olsen across the middle. Newton saw Olsen was covered by safety Major Wright, but he never saw Jonathan Bostic, a second-round pick from Miami. Bostic intercepted the pass and ran along the sideline for a 51-yard score.

“I saw man-to-man. … (Wright) had help inside. I completely lost (Bostic),” Newton said. “Just got to get the cobwebs out. It’s something different than our defense and we’ve got to be more prepared.”

Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton and cornerback Josh Norman enjoying the game on the sideline.
Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton and cornerback Josh Norman enjoying the game on the sideline.

Coach Rivera said Newton “got a little greedy,” on the interception, but played well otherwise. Newton did not want his short night to end on a down note, but the coach was sticking to his script of playing his starter just 10-12 plays.

“It’s tough. I begged and pleaded so I could get one more series. I’m going home with an interception my last throw. It’s disgusting. But it’s something you’ve got to live with,” Newton said. “You’ve got to live and learn. And I think it’s keeping me anxious for this upcoming preseason game at Philadelphia.”

Newton’s three series resulted in a punt, a touchdown and the interception. He was 3-for-6 passing for 16 yards, including a 3-yard touchdown pass to Brandon LaFell.

All three Panthers quarterbacks lost turnovers. Backup Derek Anderson threw a second-quarter interception, while third-teamer Jimmy Clausen fumbled a handoff in the second half on his first drive.

The Panthers will practice Sunday evening, Monday afternoon and Tuesday morning at Wofford College before breaking camp to return to Charlotte. Their next game will be Thursday night in Philadelphia. The Eagles lost last night to the Patriots in the first game of Coach Chip Kelly’s NFL career. At least the Panthers’ defense will have some idea of what this newly revamped Eagles offense is like from watching game film.

GAME NOTES:

• Going into camp, many people questioned whether Armanti Edwards was going to make this team. He will – as a backup receiver. Coach Rivera has said repeatedly the real test will be whether Edwards can make catches in traffic, and he had a couple of good ones Friday.

• Both of Carolina’s rookie defensive tackles looked good, with No.1 draft choice Star Lotulelei holding the point of attack.

• The Panthers’ special teams were solid. Graham Gano banged in a 50-yard, fourth-quarter field goal that would have been good from 60 and then knocked the ensuing kickoff nearly into the stands. The coverage teams didn’t let Devin Hester or anyone else beat them.

Carolina Panthers' rookie running back Kenjon Barner scored a touchdown, made some nice plays, but did cough up the ball twice in Friday's preseason opening win over the Chicago Bears.
Carolina Panthers’ rookie running back Kenjon Barner scored a touchdown, made some nice plays, but did cough up the ball twice in Friday’s preseason opening win over the Chicago Bears.

• Carolina is trying to use rookie running back Kenjon Barner in a variety of ways…as a scat-back and as a kick returner. Barner called his first-half lost fumble “unacceptable.” The second one he was involved with was actually credited to Jimmy Clausen, but Rivera said afterward that Barner had reached for the ball instead of letting Clausen give it to him. Barner can ill-afford fumbles, as there are several veterans ahead of him on the depth-chart. The surprise (late) sixth-round pick showed resilience scoring one touchdown and making a nice shoe-top catch of a poorly-thrown ball, turning around and running for a first down.