CHARLOTTE, NC - DECEMBER 24: Head coach Ron Rivera of the Carolina Panthers watches on against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers during their game at Bank of America Stadium on December 24, 2011 in Charlotte, North Carolina. (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)
I have to give a hat tip to Joe Person for a very informative Q&A with Head Coach Ron Rivera since we tend to give Joe a hard time every now and then. With many of Rivera's answers in this Q&A we get a real sense of the 'deep thinker' part of his profile coming into the job. With now a full season to get his feet wet he has studied film and tape ad nauseam. He now can explain in nutshell what the bigger problems really were and what issues don't concern him as much as some might think.
Let's start with one of the obvious sore spots, the safety position:
Q: Was safety a sore spot for you last year?
RIVERA: It was for us. In what you do defensively, you have to have a guy step up. But at the same time, you’ve also go to have a guy in front of them that’s a communicator. I love Dan Connor, but Dan Connor’s not a communicator. He’s a hard-nosed, grindstone type guy. And that was tough on our safeties. But now you’ve got Jon Beason, who communicates like you can’t believe. You’ve got Luke Kuechly, who shows he knows how to communicate. So right through the middle of our defense we’ve gotten better...
So Dan Connor may have been a shooting star on Twitter but he apparently didn't talk enough at MLB. I didn't see that one coming. So the main problem was communication...huh, it is amazing how that same problem crops up in so many aspects of life...but I digress.
It's one thing to line up right but you still have to make the right decision on assignment based on the what you diagnose pre-snap:
Q: The result of which, there were a lot of instances where you weren’t lined up right or you had the wrong call on?
RIVERA: I would say not necessarily lined up wrong, as much as an understanding of what we were doing. We may have been lined up properly, but we didn’t fit the run properly. Probably the best way to put it – in some instances, in some circumstances, we had a lack of communication.
Another reveal is that Rivera is old school when it comes to veterans holding on too their positions regardless of who is brought in:
Q: You mentioned competition, is it going to be pretty heated at the No. 2 corner spot?
RIVERA: Without a doubt. Right now Captain’s (Munnerlyn) coming in as the No. 2 guy. But with the young guys developing and doing as well as they are, Darius Butler, who has the physical tools and makeup. We went out and got Josh Norman, who for whatever reason fell in the draft because he had a bad (40) time (of 4.56 seconds at the combine). That’s fine. You go out and look at him right now, you don’t see that bad time. You feel, wow, OK, maybe he just had a bad day. We’ll see. I’m excited about that.
So Captain is the incumbent #2 CB who will players like Brandon Hogan and rookie Josh Norman trying to unseat him. Hearing Rivera talk about either one suggest both have a good shot:
Q: Where does Brandon Hogan fit after what amounted to a redshirt year?
RIVERA: That’s a great way to put it. But when he did play last year – (especially) the Texans’ game – you saw he gets football. He gets the concepts of football. So that was exciting...
His comments on Norman seem to echo what we have been saying since the draft:
We went out and got Josh Norman, who for whatever reason fell in the draft because he had a bad (40) time (of 4.56 seconds at the combine). That’s fine. You go out and look at him right now, you don’t see that bad time. You feel, wow, OK, maybe he just had a bad day. We’ll see. I’m excited about that.
Rounding out the top 4 vying for the position is former
1st 2nd round pick Darius Butler. Yes, it will be quite the battle and I have to agree with Rivera, we are quite deep at CB actually.