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2013 CAROLINA PANTHERS PREVIEW

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2013 Carolina Panthers: Special teams, coaching analysis

SPECIAL TEAMS ANALYSIS

Pros: Ted Ginn Jr. showed during the exhibition schedule that he still has plenty of speed and the ability to revive the Panthers’ middling return teams. Ginn likes the way his blockers developed during the preseason. Kicker Graham Gano didn’t miss a field goal in four exhibitions, and second-year punter Brad Nortman was more consistent.

Cons: There aren’t a lot of options behind Ginn. Joe Adams, drafted in the fourth round in 2012 to be the primary returner, was cast off with a calf injury. Kick returner Kealoha Pilares blew out his ACL returning a kick in the preseason. Hixon has experience as a returner, and rookie Kenjon Barner also could get a look.

Observer position ranking: 4th.

COACHING ANALYSIS

Pros: After interviewing external offensive coordinator candidates Hue Jackson and Pat Shurmur, Ron Rivera stayed in-house and promoted Mike Shula, who had a good rapport with Cam Newton as the quarterbacks coach. Despite coming up on the Eagles’ blitz-heavy defensive staff, Sean McDermott had found a way to generate a consistent pass rush without relying on blitzes that would put his defensive backs in single coverage.

Cons: Shula’s offenses with Tampa Bay and the University of Alabama were fairly conservative, and he did little in the preseason to shake that reputation. Those Bucs teams were built around a strong defense and running game – Shula’s never had a quarterback with Newton’s skill set to work with. Rivera also leans toward the conservative side with his game management. With his job on the line this year, it might be time to take a few more chances.

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