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Changes coming to running game?

By Joseph Person
Inside the Panthers blog

Ron Rivera promised there would be changes in the wake of Monday's firing of general manager Marty Hurney.

The first couple have been minor, although there could be a bigger change in the Panthers' offensive philosophy unveiled Sunday in Chicago.

Rivera has tweaked the Panthers' daily routine, giving the team a 30-minute break between the morning walkthough and practice – something Rivera and Hurney discussed before Hurney's departure.

Under the previous set-up, players and coaches were on the field for nearly three hours. Reading between the lines, it sounds like maybe a few players weren't thrilled with that arrangement.

Personnel-wise, the Panthers continue to experiment with their offensive line following center Ryan Kalil's season-ending foot surgery. Byron Bell returns to right tackle after playing guard last week, while Jeff Byers gets a shot at guard next to Bell.

This likely coincides with the Panthers' shift from the zone read package to more reliance on a power running game. Rivera has only hinted about his plans for the offense. But based on last week's game against Dallas – when power-running Jonathan Stewart received the bulk of the work and speed back DeAngelo Williams mostly watched – it's clear the Panthers are trying to re-create themselves offensively.

Carolina, the NFL's third-best rushing offense in 2011, has dropped to 13th this season. And the only reason the drop isn't bigger is Cam Newton's scrambling ability.

The Panthers won't dump the zone read completely. It gives defenses something extra to prepare for. But so far in Year 2 under Rivera and offensive coordinator Rob Chudzinski, those defenses look plenty well prepared.

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