The Carolina Panthers have hired Perry Fewell to coach their secondary and generally assist in defensive responsibilities, the team announced on Tuesday.
Carolina had a vacancy at the position after head coach Ron Rivera fired former assistant Jeff Imamura at the beginning of December.
A source told the Observer last week that Rivera will continue to call defensive plays while keeping Eric Washington as defensive coordinator, which is how the Panthers operated since Week 13 of the 2018 season.
Fewell, 56, is a longtime defensive backs coach who also served as a defensive coordinator (New York Giants) and an interim head coach (Buffalo Bills). He most recently was the Jacksonville Jaguars’ defensive backs coach.
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“It’s a dream come true, so to speak,” said Fewell, a Cramerton, N.C., native. “Coaching for your home team – what better joy could you get? I’m just excited to get to work.”
He was the defensive backs coach for the Chicago Bears in 2004-05, when Rivera was the defensive coordinator. He then became the defensive coordinator of the Bills from 2006-09, when he became the interim head coach after Dick Juaron was fired.
Fewell became the defensive coordinator of the Giants in 2010, and helped the team to a Super Bowl victory in 2012. In 2015, he coached defensive backs in Washington for two seasons.
Fewell actually interviewed for the Panthers’ head coaching job in 2011, before Rivera was ultimately hired.
The Panthers’ secondary gave up 240 passing yards per game in 2018, which ranked No. 18 in the NFL. Opposing quarterbacks averaged 7.7 yards per passing attempt against Carolina, which ranked No. 23 in the league in 2018. The Panthers gave up the fifth-highest amount of passing touchdowns in the NFL in 2018 (32) but recorded just 13 interceptions.
Fewell will take over a group that currently includes incoming fourth-year starting cornerback James Bradberry, second-year starting cornerback Donte Jackson and a whole lot of questions elsewhere — including at nickel and cornerback depth.
His coaching experience is thought to be an asset on a defensive staff that was full of first-year assistants and coordinators last season.
The Panthers also announced that assistant Richard Rodgers will continue to coach the safeties.
Still vacant for Carolina is the role of wide receivers coach, and assistant special teams coach.
Former receivers coach Lance Taylor is not being retained after his contract expired, a league source told the Observer last week.
Another league source confirmed to the Observer that special teams assistant coach Heath Farwell will be the new special teams coordinator of the Buffalo Bills.