The Carolina Panthers’ first-team offense couldn’t get anything working against the first-team defense in red zone drills during Thursday’s minicamp session, and that didn’t bother coach Ron Rivera one bit.
The Panthers offense had scripted their 10 or so plays from inside the 20. Meanwhile, the defense was able to react before the snap and check in and out of schemes.
The results were overwhelming in the favor of the defense. Defensive end Charles Johnson snuffed out a reverse to Ted Ginn Jr. on one play, and later Johnson and linebacker Shaq Thompson combined on what would have been a sack of quarterback Cam Newton.
Backup quarterback Derek Anderson turned to Rivera at one point and said: “Coach, every time they check it out, we’re going to run the ball right down their throat.” Instead, the scripted play was a pass.
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After the drill, Rivera said Newton told him “Coach, the guy lines up 6 or 7 yards deep and that’s where I’m going to throw it.”
Rivera understood the frustrations, which mounted as the offense was denied the end zone throughout the drill.
“Having been a defensive coordinator and you script practices and you have your own set of mechanisms in there, it doesn’t make it conducive to being successful. I understand that,” Rivera said. “When I watch what goes out there and I see the routes, that was good. It’s like watching (Newton) have to eat the ball. Well he made a good decision. His natural instinct to run and create takes over. He’s trying to stay in the pocket and do his reads in a situation where you know he’d pull it down and run. Am I disappointed? No.”
The competition between the offense and defense did get heated at times during the three-day minicamp, but nothing like what will likely happen in Spartanburg in July and August during training camp.
“We always challenge, as you can tell, each and every day,” Newton said. “There’s no other person that would want to see the defense’s doom besides me. And there’s no one who wants to see the offense’s doom besides (Thomas Davis). That’s how it’s supposed to be, but it’s a mutual respect knowing that we all are making each other better.”