How the Carolina Panthers were built

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EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — It was, as Roman Harper surmised, the most disappointed 14-0 team you’ll ever see. Ron Rivera was ticked that his team lost its composure and its lead. Dwan Edwards was annoyed that the defense had gotten lax on tackling with the game nearly in hand in the second half on Sunday. And practically everyone was furious at Odell Beckham Jr., whose on-the-field MMA undercard with Josh Norman defined a chippy, chaotic, physical and — yes — slightly disappointing 38-35 victory for the Carolina Panthers over the New York Giants.

Norman, speaking — literally — through clenched teeth, questioned Beckham’s toughness after the Giants’ star receiver melted down, at one point running at least 10 yards just to launch at Norman’s head with his own helmet. When the locker room opened, Norman was sitting on his stool, wearing half his uniform, staring into space. Even after he took his time to shower and meticulously dress himself — two bracelets, a watch, cufflinks in his French cuffs, a camel colored dress coat — Norman narrowed his eyes, the pupils rimmed in red, as he spoke with a fury.

Hurney deserves praise for acquiring so much top-shelf talent. And Panthers owner Jerry Richardson deserves the credit for pulling the plug on Hurney in 2012 because of bloated contracts, poor salary cap management, and an inability to sustain success. Gettleman, who cut his teeth with the Giants, has proven to be the right man to navigate out of cap trouble while picking up bargain role players in free agency along the way.

While most teams spend huge money in the secondary, Gettleman has essentially replaced the group every season with castoffs like Kurt Coleman, Roman Harper and cheap nfl jerseys and mid-level draft picks. The defense hasn’t suffered. Gettleman resisted the calls to sign a veteran stopgap at receiver when wide receiver Kelvin Benjamin, Gettleman’s excellent 2014 first-round pick, tore his ACL in August. Gettleman believed the guys in place would suffice. The Panthers lead the league in scoring with Ted Ginn, Jerricho Cotchery, Devin Funchess and Corey Brown at wide receiver.

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Sure, we’ll toss them in a discussion about undefeated teams, only to note they’re the most likely to fall first. Yes, we’ll mention that Josh Norman is playing really well, only to stop short of adamantly noting he’s playing better than any cornerback in the NFL. And absolutely, we’ll even tell you it’s a nice story, before wondering when it will end.

Maybe that’s merely life as a small-market team with a limited level of historical significance. But what the Panthers did to the Packers in Sunday’s first half wasn’t just worthy of our “aw, shucks” compliments. It was real-deal, dominating football against the one team with the best chance of challenging them for home-field advantage in the playoffs.

And so on Sunday, that shoe became a boot, and the only place it dropped was squarely in the rear ends of the two-time defending conference champion Seattle Seahawks. The Panthers beat them on the ground (144 yards rushing). They beat them through the air (Cam Newton posted a tidy 108.3 passer rating). They beat them up front. They beat back their comeback, and beat them in a different way than they beat them before.

Carolina beat them, and beat them, and beat them until what was happening out there was impossible for those who have been missing what’s going on down here to miss it any longer. Asked as he jogged triumphantly off the field if his team had felt overlooked, first-team All-Pro corner Josh Norman smiled: “Yeah. Yup. Look at the score, though.”

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While Cam Newton absorbed Sunday’s defeat by sitting at his locker for more than 45 minutes, most of which he spent with a towel over his head, Harper seemed more capable of maintaining focus on the bigger picture. And that’s not a knock on the 26-year-old Newton. The 33-year-old Harper merely has the benefit of life experience.

“In 2009, we were 13-0 when we lost our first game to the Cowboys,” said Harper, referring to his time as a key member of that season’s Saints squad. “Then we lost two more. We were the first team in NFL history to lose our last three games and still win the Super Bowl.”

Before he broke his arm, Thomas Davis was the best player on the field in the NFC Championship. After three ACL surgeries and ten seasons with the Panthers, he’s still one of the fastest linebackers in pursuit of the ball. His knowledge and film-study lets him react to plays before they start rolling, resulting in big plays behind the line of scrimmage. The Panthers love to show pressure up the middle with Davis and Luke Kuechly, forcing confusion from opposing lines. Both players can blitz, both can drop back into coverage, and both need to be monitored every play.

Kuechly is at an even higher level. Even Broncos linebacker Brandon Marshall told me this week that Kuechly was the best linebacker in the league. His range in pass coverage will allow him to close on any Peyton Manning flutterballs. Ron Rivera said Kuechly was the natural heir to Mike Singletary and Brian Urlacher as the NFL’s true complete linebacker. His ability in pursuit seems to be contagious.

Notes: Eifert encouraged; Fisher eyes opener; Quez, Ced on rehab field

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The grant helped install artificial stadium turf, new goal posts and asphalt in necessary areas at the Deer Park Jr./Sr. High School stadium. This allows for additional use of the field for more football games, as well as other sporting events, physical education classes and band usage.

The grant was the latest in an ongoing program in which the Bengals and the NFL have coordinated to distribute $1.5 million to local schools for new football fields. Other schools include Clinton-Massie High School, Covington Catholic High School, Lockland High School, Oak Hills High School, Taylor High School, Withrow University High School and cheap jerseys and Midway Elementary School.

“The news of Darian’s passing is tragic to the entire Bengals organization, and also I know to his colleagues with Hamilton County,” said Bengals public relations director Jack Brennan.

“Darian was not only a very hard worker, someone who had earned high honors for his work, he was a great individual — enthusiastic, helpful, fun to be around. He will be missed in a very personal sense as well as a professional one. He had been with the County in the PBS groundskeeper position for more than 10 years. Our sympathy goes out to Darian’s family and to his many friends.”jersey

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Tyler Eifert (ankle) and Tyler Kroft (knee) said they would try to jog outside after running on various apparatus indoors. No timetable has been set at they try to return as close as they can to the Sept. 11 opener in New Jersey against the Jets, but Eifert says the ankle he injured in the Pro Bowl “feels pretty good,” and he says he has had no setbacks in his return from May surgery.

“I’m not ready to practice. I’m not ready for change of direction,” Eifert said before practice. “But I’m doing multiple treatments a day and doing lifting and conditioning multiple times a day. I try to do as much as I possibly can so when I’m ready to play I’m in shape.”

Before a standing room-only crowd of about 6,300 LaFell lined up with the first team and wide receivers coach James Urban said they’ll start monitoring to see if he’ll be able to handle starting duties with the injury in the Sept. 11 opener.

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“That’s why we’re doing it now to see how things go,” said Urban after practice. “Tomorrow I would expect him to be considerably better as far as alignment, assignment, and get-off and shaking off the dust of running routes again. I saw a little bit of rust he has to shake off. Hopefully he’ll be better tomorrow than he was today.”

“I feel like I’m a coach on the defense. I know all the spots, especially linebackers,” Burfict said. “If somebody messes up, either Coach G or me is the first one to correct it on the sidelines. I’m trying to be like an assistant coach … If he’s talking to the safeties, I’m talking to the linebackers. Sometimes I talk to the D-line. It’s just a chain reaction.”

That’s what happened on the sidelines in last Friday night’s pre-season opener at Paul Brown Stadium against Zimmer’s Vikings. With linebackers coach Jim Haslett and assistant David Lippincott in the coaches booth, Burfict helped out with young guys like the last two third-round picks, Nick Vigil and P.J. Dawson, while wielding an iPad.

After the Bengals finished up their last public session of training camp in a Tuesday morning walk-through on the Paul Brown Stadium field before a group of season ticket holders, head coach Marvin Lewis indicated he doesn’t expect injured starters Cedric Ogbuehi and Brandon LaFell to miss the Sept. 11 regular-season opener in New Jersey against the Jets.

LaFell, a seven-year veteran wide receiver who reportedly has ligament damage in his right hand, went through individual drills Monday after not playing Friday night in the pre-season opener against the Vikings. Lewis didn’t rule out LaFell for the next one, Thursday night (7:30-Cincinnati’s Channel 12) in Detroit.

Bengals at Steelers Postgame Quotes

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On the last one, with the Bengals trailing, 17-6, late in the third quarter, they had a first down at the Steelers 1 and couldn’t get in with the last two downs going to tight end C.J. Uzomah.

Uzomah, a second-year pro trying to replace a Pro Bowl red-zone target, has plenty of potential but he’s developing in the harsh glare of an AFC North race. On Sunday he was targeted eight times and had two drops to go along with three catches. On second down from the Steelers 3 he got his hands on it at the back end line but was muscled out of bounds on a play the Bengals didn’t challenge because there wasn’t enough evidence that he stayed in.

The problem is they couldn’t remove Roethlisberger from the situation. As he always does he made his coaches look good by bailing them out of loads of trouble. He completed just 19 of 37 passes and tried to force feed it to Brown on 11 targets. But when he had to, he threw lovely balls to guys you may have not heard of, such as tight ends Jesse James and cheap jerseys and Xavier Grimble and wide receiver Sammie Coates.jersey

It was a long ball to Coates that Kirkpatrick turned into a leaping interception with 48 seconds left in the first half for the Bengals’ best field position of the day and the offense turned it into a huge last play field-goal that cut the Steelers’ lead to 10-6.

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I thought he played well. I thought he did a lot of good things. He can’t focus on the fumble. Obviously it was a big play in the game, but he has to move past it. That’s the way it is. We have another really good team we’re going to be playing this week, so you have to move on from it and learn from it. I think he will.

There were different plays, and at different times, calls to go to different guys. That’s just how it was today. There were times when A.J. Green would catch 12 balls and there are other times when other guys will get involved. That’s just how it is.

“Definitely,” Boyd said when asked if he thought his knee was down. “The guys did a real great job having my back. Telling me to keep my head up. I felt real bad because there was (1:50 left) and we were in great position to go down and score. Once I saw it on the screen, I just felt we were going to have another chance, another snap at it. But it didn’t go our way.”

The Bengals did a superb job of holding resident Steelers superman Antonio Brown to four catches for 39 yards and no TDs, his lowest yardage total with quarterback Ben Roethlisberger since Dec. 30, 2012, long before he was “AB.”

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Hampered all day by a Steelers defense that basically took away the deep ball with a two deep safety zone and a four-man rush most of the day, Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton, en route to a career-high 54 passes, hurried up underneath the zone trailing, 24-9, with a seven-for-seven drive capped off by running back Giovani Bernard’s 25-yard catch-and-run for a TD that cut it to 24-16 with 3:23 left.

And with the Bengals driving for a chance to tie it from the Steelers 39 on the first play after the two-minute warning, Bengals rookie wide receiver Tyler Boyd suffered a nightmare for one of the greatest high school and college players ever from Pittsburgh. After having a solid six-catch game for 78 yards, Boyd fumbled the last one, a six-yarder over the middle with 1:50 left, on a play the Bengals thought Boyd’s knee was down at the Steelers 33 as James Harrison hit him before the ball came out.

The two local beat reporters, Jay Morrison of The Dayton Daily News and Richard Skinner, the digital sports columnist for Channel 12, are in on the Steelers for a variety of reasons. Morrison thinks the Bengals might have a tough time shortening the game on the ground and Skinner goes with the home team on what he sees as a 50-50 ball in the air.

Gerry Dulac of The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette goes Steelers because of the ease with which they put up 38 points Monday night in Washington without three weapons in Le’Veon Bell, Markus Wheaton, and Ladarius Green, two of which they won’t have Sunday.

Dwight Freeney signs contract with Atlanta Falcons

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Matt Ryan is having the season of a lifetime, posting career highs in passer rating, passing yards per game and same-sentence mentions with Tom Brady. While Julio Jones remains the go-to fixture in Matty Ice’s attack, the Falcons’ offense is getting it done with a new cast of stars, including Mohamed Sanu, Austin Hooper jersey and cheap jerseys and Tevin Coleman jersey, who’s developed into a dual-threat dynamo. Plus, Atlanta has so far avoided the post-undefeated-start collapse that befell last year’s team and sits in prime position to take the NFC South and contend in a competitive conference.

He completed 23 of 35 passes for 223 yards with a late TD to Demaryius Thomas and an interception. He was sacked a half-dozen times, including 3½ times by outside linebacker Vic Beasley, who burned right tackle Ty Sambrailo on three of those takedowns.

Lynch’s footwork was a mess and his overthrows and misfires ruined any chance the Broncos had of capitalizing on the league’s 30th ranked defense, including the NFL‘s next-to-last pass defense and a patchwork linebacker corps.jersey

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The seven-time Pro Bowler visited both teams in May, while holding out hope that the Cardinals would reciprocate his interest in a reunion.

Signed off the street in mid-October last season, Freeney was a revelation in Arizona, using his trademark spin move to rack up a team-leading eight sacks in just 11 games. That campaign brought his total numbers to 119.5 sacks in 194 games over 14 seasons.

But if the club has serious interest drafting in the UCLA star linebacker, it’s willingness to trade up would need to be equally serious. Jack is visiting the Falcons on Thursday, according to ESPN. The Falcons, drafting No. 17 overall, are at least a dozen picks away from Jack’s common projection as a top-five pick. Of course, Falcons GM Thomas Dimitroff isn’t a stranger to making a bold move up the draft board.

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It’s not the first time a club to whom Jack is unlikely to fall in the first round of the draft has brought him in for a visit. The Chicago Bears, with the No. 11 overall pick, hosted Jack a week ago.

The Falcons lead the NFL in scoring offense (34.7 points per game) and total offense (448.0 yards per game) while also ranking within the top five in rushing offense (136.0 yards per game) and passing offense (312.0 yards per game). The attack is clicking on all cylinders and maximizing the talents of every playmaker in the lineup.

Starting with the quarterback, offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan jersey has tweaked his scheme to help Ryan regain his Pro Bowl form. The wily play designer has constructed a complementary misdirection passing game that perfectly matches the zone-based running concepts that have become a staple of the Falcons’ offensive attack. From the stretch-bootleg passes out of various run-heavy sets to traditional play-action concepts with intermediate and vertical routes, Ryan has been thriving in a scheme built on deception and backfield illusions.

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The Minnesota Vikings announced Monday that the linebacker would announce his retirement at a press conference on Tuesday. The news conference will take place at noon ET.

Greenway played his entire career in Minnesota, ranking fourth in franchise history with 1,334 tackles, according to the team. In 156 career games, the 34-year-old compiled 18 regular-season sacks, 32 passes broken up and 11 interceptions.

Peterson has pocketed close to $100 million over the past decade with the Minnesota Vikings. If he has reached a point in his career where chasing a championship is now a driving force, he could follow the well-worn path to New England, traveled in recent seasons by mercenary veterans such as Darrelle Revis jersey and Chris Long jersey.

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The Raiders come as no surprise. Peterson wants to play for a Super Bowl hopeful, and the Raiders are an up-and-coming AFC contender. Oakland’s star-studded offensive line is an obvious selling point after the 31-year-old power back watched an overwhelmed Vikings frontline throughout last season.jersey

The running back position saw a massive re-emergence in the world of fantasy football last season, and a major part of it had to do with personnel changes around the league. The Dallas Cowboys picked Ezekiel Elliott in the first round of the NFL draft, DeMarco Murray thrived in his first season with the Tennessee Titans, Jordan Howard roared for the Chicago Bears as a rookie, and Melvin Gordon was a touchdown machine once the then-San Diego Chargers lost Danny Woodhead. With a number of big-name runners set to become free agents and a loaded rookie class about to be drafted, there promises to be lots of backfield movement once again ahead of the 2017 campaign.

These are just a few of the names on a long list of rookies who will be thrown at fantasy football enthusiasts over the next several weeks. You’re going to hear all kinds of analysis about these players too. This dude runs fast. That dude is strong. This dude is smart. That one, maybe not so much. Lots of fantasy folks are even doing their best Mike Mayock, Daniel Jeremiah or Bucky Brooks impressions and “watching tape” in an effort to offer opinions on how players will produce in the NFL.

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After being barred from the NFL Scouting Combine, this was a monumentally important day for Mixon. He responded with a 4.50 40-yard dash, a number that would have put him squarely between Dalvin Cook (4.49) and Leonard Fournette (4.51) at the combine. He also had a 35-inch vertical jump and a broad jump of 9 feet, 10 inches. “I thought all of his results lined up with my expectations,” said NFL.com analyst Lance Zierlein. “… This workout validates the athleticism we’ve seen on tape.” More important than his numbers, Mixon got a chance to speak with a lot of NFL clubs about a 2014 incident in which he punched a female student and was suspended for the season. He met with four — the Lions, Saints, Bengals and cheap jerseys Browns — on Tuesday, and reportedly was set to speak with 20 more. … WR Dede Westbrook ran a 4.34 and a 4.38 40-yard dash, per the school.

“It’s been a great 10 years with the Minnesota Vikings. They know what I bring to the organization as a player, with my work ethic and dedication. I spoke with Rick Spielman this past weekend. The door is still open to find some common ground. I understand addressing the offensive line is one of their main priorities this offseason. In the meantime, I will explore my other options and see what path God leads me on. My main goal remains the same: to win a Super Bowl championship with a great team, which I also believe we have in Minnesota.”

The Vikings hold an $18 million option on Peterson for 2017, including a $6 million roster bonus due March 11. That contract number is unwieldy for the cap-strapped Vikings to carry over. Either the team will decide to part ways with the running back or the sides must rework the deal to keep Peterson in the only jersey he’s worn for his 10-year pro career.

How much of a discount the 31-year-old tailback is willing to give Minnesota remains to be seen. Peterson is coming off an injury-ravaged season in which he compiled just 1.9 yards per carry on 37 totes.

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Brad Van Pelt, a stalwart linebacker for the Giants who has been perhaps the player with their woeful teams inside the 1970s, perished Tuesday in Harrison, Mich. He was additionally the lived inside Harrison.

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