I've got some fresh offseason Paw Prints for you starting with some added detail and comments regarding our new secondary coach Steve Wilks. Apparently Panthers HC Ron Rivera made a run at Wilks and defensive line coach Don Johnson upon exiting San Diego:
Chargers Assistant Head Coach Steve Wilks Signs with Carolina Panthers - Bolts From The Blue
When Rivera left, he asked the Chargers if he could take with him Wilks and Don Johnson (the Defensive Line Coach that came with Wilks from the Bears) and was denied. Both coaches are now "free agents", able to sign anywhere, and many people have expected both of these guys to sign with Rivera in Carolina. We have yet to hear on what Johnson's plans are, but both he and Wilks were critical parts of the San Diego defensive staff for the last three seasons.
You might recall Eric Washington is our current defensive line coach and so far he is safe. I'm not sure how much of this past season's defensive line performance falls on Washington given the youth he had to work with. I bet we find out within a week or so if Johnson will join the Panthers as well.
Here's why Wilks couldn't come last year:
Ron Rivera gets secondary coach he wanted all along | National Football Post
The Chargers had promoted Wilks to assistant head coach last year. It’s not known if he will have a similar title with the Panthers. The move makes sense for Wilks, too, because he is a native of the Charlotte, N.C., area. Wilks is considered a strong communicator and a tough, non-nonsense assistant. He could be a candidate to become a defensive coordinator soon.
So Wilks is coming home as well. I really like this move by Rivera.
A move I would not like, after the jump...
Tampa Bay Buccaneers talk to Mike Zimmer; Rob Chudzinski next - ESPN
Although Gray and Zimmer have not been NFL head coaches, they have lots of experience as coordinators. Chudzinski is a bit of an exception to the pattern the Bucs have followed. He's 43 and joined Carolina as offensive coordinator in 2011. He also had a two-year stint as a coordinator in Cleveland, but has spent the rest of his career has a tight ends coach.
I just can't see Chud getting a HC this quick, but the Bucs might do it just to spite us? Not really...
Seems the regular media is catching up to what we've started saying mid-season:
The best nfl rookie season ever? | CharlotteObserver.com & The Charlotte Observer Newspaper
My final ranking I would argue that Newton is another game-changer. Certainly there have been mobile quarterbacks before him who could throw - Randall Cunningham, Michael Vick and so on. But Newton, as Edwards said, is truly a "whole different sort of cat." His accuracy, his ability to think on the field and his work ethic were all underrated coming out of college. And he is the best athlete on a football field every time he steps on it.
Wait, will Newton be the best athlete on the field when we play the Broncos? I kid, I kid...I think this nails it as far as what parts of Newton's game were under-rated outside of his leadership skills. I also think everyone discounted the effectiveness a set of read option plays could have and OC Rob Chudzinski's ability to adapt to Newton's strengths.
Speaking of being under-rated this college QB will certainly also be under-rated but he's coming the 'Cam Newton Effect' will help his draft prospects:
Darron Thomas speaks to ESPN, compares self to Cam Newton | OregonLive.com
Thomas told ESPN he offers "leadership, [a] winning attitude, hard work and I can make big plays. I saw what Cam Newton did this year. He took his raw talent and made a spark. I can do those things, too."
The early prognosis is he's no Cam Newton and will probably go undrafted. Some are thinking he got some bad advice and should have stayed in school. I'm sure Duck fans are disappointed.
Speaking of disappointed, if you thought the NFC South would roll in 2012 you were sadly disappointed (unless your a Panther fan of course):
Heading South | National Football Post
But at least New Orleans came away with a postseason victory this year, which is more than we can say about the Atlanta Falcons, who once again laid an egg when it mattered most. The Falcons have gone 43-21 (.671) since Mike Smith took over as head coach and Matt Ryan was drafted as the team’s franchise quarterback, but the organization is 0-3 in the postseason during that same time span and hasn’t notched a playoff win since 2005.
Finally from the statistical archives, in the Ravens win over the Texans they were only the third playoff team to play a 'clean' game with the Panthers being one of the other two:
Baltimore Ravens Taketh, But Didn't Giveth Away - WSJ.com
The Baltimore Ravens forced four turnovers while remaining both penalty and turnover-free in their win against the Houston Texans Sunday. They became just the third team in NFL postseason history to do so. The Carolina Panthers played clean in beating the Dallas Cowboys 29-10 in 2004 on their way to Super Bowl XXXVIII and the Pittsburgh Steelers beat the Cowboys 21-17 without a turnover or penalty to win Super Bowl X.
Can you imagine a game with no turnovers and no penalties? In the playoffs? Wow...seems impossible now doesn't it? Suggests a team is well coached. Thoughts?