Tag Archives: Carolina
Just as news of the salary cap going up had some of the top free agents — and fans wanting their teams to add more top talent — getting excited, reality has started to set in.
First came Jimmy Graham, and now it’s Greg Hardy’s time.
Hardy will receive the dreaded franchise tag from the Carolina Panthers, which will severely restrict his chance to land a big, free-agent deal elsewhere. That said, the Panthers almost certainly will want to keep Hardy in tow and will try their best to sign him to a long-term deal, with the tag giving them a little more time to negotiate — even with their limited cap space.
If they can’t sign Hardy long term, the one-year tender figure for defensive ends is projected to fall between $ 12.4 million and $ 12.6 million.
Hardy, 25, is coming off his finest season to date, with 15 sacks in 2013, one year after an 11-sack campaign. The 6-foot-4, 290-pound Hardy was a sixth-round pick out of Ole Miss in 2010 and clearly has earned a big raise. His fellow end, Charles Johnson, is scheduled to make more than $ 16 million in a deal green-lit by former general manager Marty Hurney.
With new GM Dave Gettleman running the show now, the team has protected its best asset. The Panthers have cleared cap space on multiple fronts in recent weeks and appear to have the room to sign Hardy long term, even if a few more moves are coming to help do that.
The colorful Hardy has been making the media rounds since the Super Bowl, no doubt in an attempt to raise his profile — and perhaps his price. But Hardy has said that he’d be willing to take a hometown discount, provided the Panthers’ offer was at least in line with what other teams might pay him.
At the very least, he has a hefty tender offer on the table, but there’s little doubt he’ll be holding out for the big (guaranteed) money for a long-term deal.
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INDIANAPOLIS – Steve Smith was 34 last season, and his play made it seem like the end might be getting close.
Carolina’s top receiver had 745 yards and his yards-per-catch average plummeted to 11.6, down 4.5 yards from 2012. He is due $ 4 million in base salary for the Panthers, who have repeatedly said this offseason they are “cap challenged.”
All of that has led to the Panthers being noncommittal when it comes to Smith’s future with the team in 2014 and beyond. Carolina coach Ron Rivera said he was “not quite sure” when asked if there was a scenario in which Smith wouldn’t be back.
“It’s all about the evaluations,” Carolina coach Ron Rivera said. “We have got to look through everything.
“Steve is part of who we are. We’ll go from there.”
When asked about impending free agents Jordan Gross and Greg Hardy, Rivera expressed a lot of probably unrealistic optimism that both would return, so he wasn’t lukewarm about other players returning.
The Panthers might be hopeful that Smith will restructure his deal. It’s hard to believe the Panthers would get rid of Smith considering how few receiving weapons they have for Cam Newton. Smith might be aging, but he’s still the best they have.
“Again, we’re going through the process. We have to see,” Rivera said. “He’s a veteran guy that has played a lot of games for us.”
Smith has been with the Panthers since 2001. It’s hard to imagine him playing anywhere else. It’s especially hard to see the Panthers moving on considering they’re struggling to find a reliable No. 2 receiver, much less someone who can be Smith’s successor as their top option. But the Panthers are apparently considering all their options.
“We’re going through the whole process,” Panthers general manager Dave Gettleman said. “Steve’s had a great career. He really has. None of us are here forever.”
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Quarterback Cam Newton’s positive attitude epitomizes why he deserves a new contract.
Newton is eligible for a contract extension for the first time since he was drafted in 2011 by the Carolina Panthers. Despite being Carolina’s franchise quarterback, he does not intend to hold out in hopes of obtaining a new contract.
“Absolutely not,” Newton told ProFootballTalk.com’s Mike Florio on the Dan Patrick Show.
Arizona Cardinals cornerback Patrick Peterson recently said he would not eliminate a holdout to receive a new contract this offseason, but Newton believes his situation is different.
“I think our positions are completely different,” Newton said (via PFT). “Being the leader of this team, I don’t think that would be a good look for me. Not taking anything away from Patrick, he’s an unbelievable player, and an elite corner in the league. But there’s some things cornerbacks can do that quarterbacks can’t.
“I’m not worried about contract discussions right now. My main focus is just becoming the better player I can become.”
Newton has improved, and it may benefit Carolina to lock up its quarterback now before another strong season increases his asking price.
Last season, Newton led Carolina to its first playoff appearance since the 2008 season. Newton had 3,379 passing yards, 24 touchdowns and 13 interceptions, plus 585 rushing yards and six rushing touchdowns. Overall, he has 11,299 passing yards and 64 touchdowns, while adding 2,302 rushing yards and 28 rushing touchdowns.
Newton is slated to earn $ 3.378 million in 2014, the final year of his contract. Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford signed a three-year extension worth $ 53 million prior to last season, which will likely be the starting point of negotiations between Carolina and Newton.
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CHARLOTTE – You let Colin Kaepernick run around long enough, he’s going to cause you some serious problems. On Sunday, Kaepernick and the 49ers shook off an erratic first half to defeat the Carolina Panthers 23-10. San Francisco now advances to face Seattle in the NFC championship.
Cam Newton and the Panthers had the 49ers in check for most of the first half of Sunday’s divisional playoff. But when they needed scores the most, the Panthers couldn’t push the ball in from the one yard line. On two separate occasions, the Panthers had the ball within fall-forward distance of the end zone, and scored a grand total of 3 points.
The 49ers, meanwhile, took advantage of the Panthers’ overexuberance and some advantageous referee calling to scramble to a 13-10 halftime lead, and from there it was Kaepernick’s show. He began San Francisco’s first drive of the second half by driving 77 yards, a drive capped when he called his own number for a touchdown and extended San Francisco’s lead to 10 points.
Newton, meanwhile, had the kind of insanely frustrating game that will give his critics an entire offseason’s worth of fuel. He was erratic but occasionally exceptional in the first half, and team-killing in the second. Nowhere was this more apparent than late in the fourth quarter, when Newton had marched the Panthers deep into 49er territory before throwing a backbreaking interception to Donte Whitner.
For Carolina, this will lead to an offseason of frustrating questions with few answers. What went wrong with this team that finished the season 11-1 and hotter than any in football? Is this a Super Bowl-quality team, or one that has maximized its potential?
For San Francisco, the concerns are much more immediate: how to beat Seattle in seven days.
An offensively limited Carolina Panthers team really could use wide receiver Steve Smith on the field Sunday in their playoff matchup against the Sam Francisco 49ers.
But Smith said Thursday that he had a minor setback in coming back from a knee injury he suffered against the New Orleans Saints in Week 17. Smith told Fox’s Peter Schrager that things didn’t go as well in practice Thursday as they had Wednesday.
Steve Smith says his knee has gone from 71% yesterday to 57% today. That’s right, 57%. “It didn’t go as well as I thought it would.”
— P. Schrager (@PSchrags) January 9, 2014
(An aside: That’s a pretty precise estimation there, Steve. Never let it be said that you are not our favorite quote.)
Smith was limited in practice according to the team’s official injury report, and even head coach Ron Rivera agreed that Smith wasn’t quite his same self, per the Charlotte Observer’s Jonathan Jones.
RR: 89′s not his normal self yet. He’s 57 percent. Did what he was supposed to at practice. See how he is tomorrow — Jonathan Jones (@jjones9) January 9, 2014
Smith hasn’t been the same deep threat this season he has in Cam Newton’s first two seasons but remains an important cog of the Panthers’ offense. Defenses still roll coverage his direction, and the team has looked a little disjointed offensively at times when Smith is not on the field.
Smith has caught a touchdown in all but two of his eight postseason games with the Panthers in his career, and he has totaled 47 catches for 782 yards and seven touchdowns.
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Pete Prisco, Pat Kirwan and Adam Aizer share their thoughts on the Week 17 Panthers-Falcons NFC South matchup in Atlanta.
The Saints are truly a different team at the Superdome, almost unbeatable with the combination of Sean Payton calling plays and Drew Brees executing them.
And after Sunday, the Saints are a big step closer to ensuring a game at the Superdome on the second weekend of the NFL playoffs.
Carolina came into Sunday night’s game as the upstart in the NFC South, riding an eight-game winning streak behind a tough defense and Cam Newton. The Saints tore apart that defense and made Newton a non-factor in an impressive 31-13 win.
New Orleans is now 10-3 and a game ahead of 9-4 Carolina in the NFC South. There will be a rematch in Carolina in two weeks, but the Panthers need help to win the division. If the Panthers win out, the Saints still win the tiebreaker by winning two of their last three due to a better conference record.
The Saints, who are now 7-0 at home and 3-3 on the road this season, left little doubt that they should be considered the top dog in the division.
Carolina had allowed just two first-half touchdowns all season, but the Saints scored three touchdowns in the first half on Sunday night. Last week, the Saints were bothered a bit by the noise at Seattle. The Saints’ home crowd was polite when their team had the ball, allowing Brees to adjust plays at the line of scrimmage and find the weak spots of the Panthers’ defense. Brees was 30-of-42 for 313 yards and four touchdowns, six days after struggling outside against Seattle.
Brees joined Brett Favre, Dan Marino, Peyton Manning and John Elway as the only quarterbacks to throw for 50,000 yards in a career, and Brees set a record for reaching that mark in the fewest games.
Marques Colston and Jimmy Graham each had two touchdowns from Brees. And the defense was great against Carolina. Newton had just 160 yards passing, and the Panthers’ only touchdown came in the second half when the Saints already had a comfortable lead.
Carolina has been a great story, and its loss on Sunday night doesn’t mean it can’t make a run in the playoffs in January. But it won’t be good for the Panthers, or anyone else, if they have to come to the Superdome in January. It’s just too hard to beat the Saints in that building.
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The Carolina Panthers are a couple early-season plays away from being an obvious choice as one of the top few teams in the NFL.
In Week 1, DeAngelo Williams fumbled inside the 10-yard line in the final minutes with the Panthers trailing Seattle 12-7. Carolina never got the ball back. In Week 2, the Bills drove 80 yards for a last-second game-winning touchdown, after Panthers coach Ron Rivera decided to kick a field goal rather than go for it on fourth and 1 in the final two minutes.
A play here or there in the first two weeks, the Panthers might be 8-1 and an undisputed member of the Super Bowl contenders club. At 6-3? It seems a little tougher to gauge.
The Panthers are still chasing a very good Saints team in the NFC South, and they probably need to win the division to make a long playoff run. And they probably need to sweep New Orleans to win the division.
But there are reasons to believe. The Panthers defense is as good as any in football. Carolina held San Francisco to 45 second-half yards, and just 4 yards in the fourth quarter. Quarterback Cam Newton has greatness in him. And any team that can go into San Francisco and beat a hot 49ers team has to get a long look.
Besides, if Carolina isn’t on the list of teams that can win the Super Bowl, we’re dealing with a very, very short list of teams, as you’ll see. (I think No. 1 through 3 on this week’s rankings are obvious contenders, No. 4 through 8 are in the “under the right circumstances, absolutely” category, and No. 9 and 10 do just enough that you can’t cross them off. And that’s it. We’re not accepting any applications from No. 11 on down.)
Carolina deserves to be on any list of Super Bowl contenders for now, something even the most optimistic preseason prognosis of them couldn’t have envisioned. Now we’ll see if they can keep that status by beating New England next Monday.
Here are this week’s power rankings:
32. Jacksonville Jaguars (1-8, Last week: 32)
Well, they were out of this spot for about 32 hours or so.
31. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (1-8, LW: 31)
No player, coach or anyone associated with a team wants the scarlet letter of 0-16 for the rest of their careers. Big difference between zero wins and one.
30. Minnesota Vikings (2-7, LW: 30)
It would be entertaining if Christian Ponder played just well enough the rest of the season to get the Vikings front office talking themselves into another season of him at quarterback.
29. Atlanta Falcons (2-7, LW: 27)
Last season, Atlanta beat Seattle in a playoff game. Sunday, they were outgained 490-226 by Seattle in a 33-10 home loss. Julio Jones’ injury doesn’t make that big of a difference.
28. Houston Texans (2-7, LW: 25)
Again, keep in mind that both their victories were semi-miraculous. There’s way too much talent there to be this bad.
27. New York Giants (3-6, LW: 29)
They could get to 6-6. Then after that they play at San Diego, vs. Seattle and at Detroit. Remember that when the “Giants are alive!” stories keep popping up.
26. Washington Redskins (3-6, LW: 23)
Any hopes of winning the putrid NFC East were realistically dashed last Thursday. When you can’t beat Minnesota, it’s over.
25. Pittsburgh Steelers (3-6, LW: 26)
The Ben Roethlisberger trade rumors make no sense for anyone, really. Are the Steelers better off without him? And what team would benefit that much from sending valuable picks for a quarterback who will be 32 in March with a lot of miles on his body?
24. Oakland Raiders (3-6, LW: 24)
The Giants tried giving them a win, and they wouldn’t take it. They’ve now lost 12 straight games on the East Coast.
23. Buffalo Bills (3-7, LW: 20)
Thought they’d play better than that at Pittsburgh. The rest of the season has to be about good performances to lay a foundation for 2014 and beyond.
22. St. Louis Rams (4-6, LW: 28)
The next step is getting Tavon Austin the ball more. He had three offensive touches and two went for long scores. But we can’t expect them to figure out this “use Tavon Austin” thing all at once.
21. Tennessee Titans (4-5, LW: 17)
Went from being excited about this team’s second-half prospects to being totally out on the Titans in about three hours Sunday. What a horrible afternoon against Jacksonville.
20. Miami Dolphins (4-5, LW: 15)
With everything going on with this team, their 4-5 record seems more like 1-8. They’re very much in the AFC playoff race, but does it feel like that’s the case?
19. Baltimore Ravens (4-5, LW: 22)
Good win over the Bengals even though they made it harder than it needed to be. I don’t like them yet, but it’s not like the AFC’s playoff spots are locked up.
18. Cleveland Browns (4-5, LW: 18)
They play at Cincinnati on Sunday. Win that, and Browns fans should legitimately get excited about their chances of winning the AFC North.
17. Green Bay Packers (5-4, LW: 10)
New Orleans, Denver, New England, Cincinnati, Carolina, Indianapolis … they all have looked at the Packers in the last week or so and thought, “We’re one hit away from that being us.”
16. Philadelphia Eagles (5-5, LW: 21)
I don’t think this is a roster with .500 talent. Chip Kelly must be doing something right.
15. Dallas Cowboys (5-5, LW: 13)
The 2012 Saints gave up the most yards in NFL history. They allowed 440.1 per game. The 2013 Cowboys are allowing 439.8 yards per game.
14. Arizona Cardinals (5-4, LW: 19)
I don’t really know how it happened, but they’re right in the mix. They’ve beaten the Lions and Panthers. I’m not sure I get it, but it’s real.
13. San Diego Chargers (4-5, LW: 14)
We can mark San Diego at Miami this week as an elimination game. The loser isn’t going to be playing in January.
12. New York Jets (5-4, LW: 16)
Look at the 4-5 teams in the AFC. Look at the teams below them. I don’t love the Jets but they’re the No. 6 seed now, and can anyone beat them?
11. Chicago Bears (5-4, LW: 12)
We’ll never know if they would have beat the Lions if Josh McCown was sent in earlier. But it’s something that’ll be really interesting to look back on after Week 17.
10. Detroit Lions (6-3, LW: 11)
They look better every week. But can’t you just see a really dumb roughing the passer penalty happening to them at exactly the wrong time in January?
9. Cincinnati Bengals (6-4, LW: 8)
Losing twice in overtime on the road isn’t all that bad, although they were lucky to even get to overtime against the Ravens. Feel free to panic if they lose to the Browns this week.
8. San Francisco 49ers (6-3, LW: 5)
Seems like a big drop for a one-point home loss, but No. 6 and 7 on the list already won at San Francisco this year.
7. Indianapolis Colts (6-3, LW: 1)
Inconsistent and impossible to get a read on. Good enough to beat the 49ers by 20 on the road and yet lose by 30 to the Rams at home. Figure that one out.
6. Carolina Panthers (6-3, LW: 9)
A really bad record in close games is due to some bad luck. See the Panthers recovering both of their fumbles in the final two minutes on Sunday. They finally caught a couple breaks.
5. New England Patriots (7-2, LW: 7)
Interesting to see if Tom Brady can keep it rolling this week against that fantastic Panthers defense. Finally, a great Monday night matchup.
4. Kansas City Chiefs (9-0, LW: 6)
Before you tweet and email, also holler at Las Vegas oddsmakers, who made the Broncos eight-point favorites this week. And remember their livelihood depends on that kind of thing.
3. New Orleans Saints (7-2, LW: 4)
At the Superdome, they’re No. 1 on the list. Anywhere else, not so much. That’s what makes the race for the No. 1 seed in the NFC so interesting.
2. Seattle Seahawks (9-1, LW: 3)
Whatever happened against St. Louis and Tampa Bay might have just been a weird fluke … and they won both games. They looked strong in the rout at Atlanta. Carry on.
1. Denver Broncos (8-1, LW: 2)
That was a complete game against a very good team at San Diego on Sunday. Peyton Manning’s health willing, they once again look like the AFC favorite, even if the offensive line makes you wonder.
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I think the overlooked element of the Carolina Panthers and their three-game winning streak is the defense, because everyone focuses on quarterback Cam Newton.
Carolina’s front seven is exceptional. And I think Sean McDermott, their defensive coordinator, has done a great job with his coverage concepts to camouflage some individual weaknesses in the secondary. We think of coverage as just the secondary, and it’s not just them. The coverage concepts include linebackers, and the Panthers have two excellent coverage linebackers.
The Panthers play nickel often, and I’d argue Luke Kuechly and Thomas Davis are the fastest pair of nickel linebackers in the NFL. That’s a very overlooked element of defense if you’re going to play nickel instead of dime.
Carolina also has a terrific defensive line rotation with multidimensional and versatile players. Greg Hardy is a player who rarely gets talked about, but he plays defensive tackle and defensive end and is a really good player. They’ve gotten good snaps out of both rookies at defensive tackle, Star Lotulelei and Kawann Short, who is really talented physically but played too many snaps in college. He has played about 35 snaps a game this season and has been really effective.
Defensively, they’re very good. Then offensively, they have a lot of talent and many dimensions, which makes them tough to defend.
I think the issue with Newton has always been that he’s a little slow to process and isolate the necessary information. He has been a beat late with throws, he has had some issues with accuracy. I think over the last three or four games – and nobody can answer why, but it’s there on film – he is processing better, the ball is coming out of his hand a lot quicker to the right receiver at the right time and he has recognized coverages better.
Also, their run game is extremely versatile and difficult to defend because so much involves Newton. When your quarterback is part of your run game, you can do so much more in the backfield with formation, personnel and backfield actions. The defense has to account for the quarterback as part of the run game. And the Panthers do a lot of different things in the run game.
A third-quarter run against Tampa Bay showed the diversity of the Panthers running game. They ran a basic quarterback power with the right guard pulling left, but with a read option element added to it. That’s a cool play, and it’s hard to defend this stuff. Newton gained 19 yards on the play.
The Panthers have a lot on offense: a multidimensional quarterback, a diverse run game and weapons at all skill positions. Greg Olsen isn’t Jimmy Graham, but he’s a tight end that can line up everywhere and be effective. Steve Smith is still dangerous, Brandon LaFell is a better No. 2 receiver than most people think, and Ted Ginn is an interesting No. 3 receiver because he can run by your secondary.
The Panthers also have some flaws. Their offensive line is, at best, a little better than average. Their secondary can be exposed in certain games. If they lose a game because they gave up 400 yards passing, that wouldn’t be a big surprise.
This is a big game for them this week against Atlanta, because they’re at home and the Falcons are struggling. If they’re truly improving, they should win.
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NFL analyst and NFL Films senior producer Greg Cosell watches as much NFL game film as anyone. Throughout the season, Cosell will join Shutdown Corner to share his observations on the teams, schemes and personnel from around the league.