For the first time under Ron Rivera, the Panthers will take the field this week with someone other than Rob Chudzinski calling the offensive plays.
With Chud gone to Cleveland as the Browns’ coach, new coordinator Mike Shula will direct the offense when the Panthers begin the first of 10 OTA (organized team activities) practices Tuesday in Charlotte.
But Rivera is not big on branding the offense as Shula’s.
“It’s not necessarily his offense as much as the Panthers’ offense, what we’re going to do,” Rivera said last week.
One of the reasons Rivera promoted Shula from quarterbacks coach rather than hire Pat Shurmur or Hue Jackson was continuity. Shula, in his third year in Charlotte, will seek input from the entire offensive staff.
Rivera praised three of those assistants – offensive line coaches John Matsko and Ray Brown and tight ends coach Pete Hoener – for changing the pass protections last season when injuries took a toll on the line.
But on Sunday afternoons this fall, Shula will have the final say. And while Rivera has indicated the offense won’t look much different than it did under Chudzinski, he said Shula would bring “his own personality” to it.
Shula was known as a conservative play-caller as Tampa Bay’s offensive coordinator from 1996-99 and as Alabama’s head coach from 2003-06. But Rivera has a different impression.
“I think what I like about him is his aggressive nature. I like that,” Rivera said. “I think the thing that he and I have talked about is doing things that will maximize each individual’s abilities.”
Sound mind, sound body: Quarterback Cam Newton did not put on the so-called freshman 15 when he returned to Auburn this semester. In fact, Newton came back to Charlotte in better shape.
Newton dropped five or six pounds after getting up to about 251 at the end of last season.
“I don’t know if he did it intentionally or it’s a matter of how active he’s been,” Rivera said. “He went back to school, hit the books, spent a lot of time around the (Auburn) football facility, the workout facilities. He was in an environment he was comfortable with and around people he was very comfortable with. So it was good for him.”
Rivera said Newton has taken on more of a leadership role in his third season.
“He’s been great,” Rivera said. “If he picks up where he left off last year, we could really be a really good team.”
Keiser catches on: When the Panthers cut defensive end Thomas Keiser last week, Rivera told the former undrafted free agent from Stanford that “getting in a 2-point stance” as an outside linebacker might be good for him.
Sure enough, Keiser signed two days later with San Diego, which employs a 3-4 defense – although Chargers first-year coach Mike McCoy has indicated he would be open to changing the scheme to accommodate newly acquired defensive end Dwight Freeney.
Keiser is a high-energy player who, at 260 pounds, was a little too lean to be an every-down end, and was a little limited in his pass-rush moves. But he developed a fan following in Charlotte for his hustle and quirkiness. He took chia seeds with water at training camp to stay hydrated.
And when he was picked up by San Diego last week, Keiser thanked every person who wished him well on his Twitter timeline.
Northern exposure: Panthers General Manager Dave Gettleman has not let borders slow his pursuit of big-bodied linemen. After drafting defensive tackle Star Lotulelei (originally from Tonga) and guard Edmund Kugbila (of Ghana) last month, Gettleman plucked 6-3, 314-pound defensive tackle Linden Gaydosh out of Canada.
Gaydosh was the No. 1 overall pick in the CFL draft after playing at the University of Calgary. He was one of nine tryout players signed by Carolina following its rookie minicamp last weekend.
But Gaydosh remains something of a project, and will have to adjust to the NFL game.
“The biggest thing he had to get used to is getting up on the ball, because they’re traditionally about a yard off the ball, from my understanding,” Rivera told the Observer’s Jonathan Jones last week. “It took him a little bit to get used to that. But once he gets his timing down he’ll be OK.”
• Sadly, former Panthers running back Mike Goodson looks to be following a familiar path. Goodson was arrested early Friday morning on drugs and weapons charges in New Jersey after he was found in a vehicle with marijuana, a loaded handgun and hollow-point bullets.
Goodson’s father is serving a nearly 20-year sentence in a federal prison in Texas for mail and wire fraud.
• Panthers wideout Steve Smith has never been shy about sharing his opinion, so why would his sports-talk cameos on WFNZ be any different? In this case, the topic was Jets quarterback Mark Sanchez.
“He sucks,” Smith reportedly said on-air. Wednesday. “I wouldn’t let Mark Sanchez throw me a paper bag sandwich.”
The Jets play in Charlotte in Week 15 when Smith’s comments will be recycled, unless – or maybe especially if – Geno Smith is starting.
• The Panthers’ OTA practices are not open to the public. With several veterans coming off of surgeries and other starters expected to get only light work, fans will see more in Spartanburg, anyway.
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