“It is what it is,” said Rivera. “You are what your record says you are.” “The nice thing is, it’s the start of a new season. We have an opportunity to do things differently. We have an opportunity to show what we’ve become. If you want to…. look for numbers, look at the numbers we had the last eight games of the season—those are things to build on and that’s what we’re trying to do.”
“Everyone is undefeated” coming into the first game, said Cam. “It’s like the first day of school,” said Rivera. It’s exciting. “Everyone has a chance to be a champion.”
The team needs to “execute” to improve from last year. Offensively, last year, Cam feels that it was “just off just a little bit.” Poorly executed plays would “linger” and the then all the pressure would be put on the offense in the 4th Quarter to drive the ball. “We can’t put ourselves in that situation and then expect for something good to happen at the end—when we have multiple opportunities during the whole entire game,” said Cam.
The team is excited about the possibilities and the potential that lies ahead this year for the Panthers. “I can’t even start to put it in words.” said Safety, Charles Godfrey. “I think about how special of a year it is that we have in front of us…it’s a different feeling and I just can’t wait to get started.”
Last year against Seattle, the Panthers had “opportunities,” Cam felt, but just didn’t “capitalize.” Steve Smith felt like the team was let down last season by what was then, offensive coach Chud. Chud was focused on earning a head coaching position in the league and not producing an offense as dynamic and creative as the year before—and it was noticeable. Chud, said Smith, was trying to show his capability and that he could be a head coach, instead of running an efficient offense. Smith feels that the offense suffered because Chud had his sights focused elsewhere. Under-utilizing players, like Mike Tolbert, was one of the specific areas that Smith pointed to. But Smith said it was “Just a lot of different things.” “So were out of that, the past is the past, we’re moving forward and coach (Mike) Shula is going to change things up and he has thus far.”
Under O.C. Shula
The offense is looking to play fast, and make the most of every opportunity. Cam feels that the offense is more than “capable” to be productive. Unfortunately, the playbook was closed for the most part of preseason and the first-string offense seemed stagnant. The offense was looking to have their basic base plays down—the “bread-and-butter” plays. Repetition is key and hopefully, the base plays will come as second nature for the offense. With the base plays down, the other exciting, creative plays can be added, dictated by the opponent of the week under Shula’s discretion. What does this new playbook look like?
Other teams must game plan against the Panthers, but by only seeing the Panthers run a basic playbook during the preseason it might come as a struggle.
Coach Shula tells the team to, “Answer the bell.” Step up to the challenge and prove that you deserve to be on the field. The offense has “to finish” games—that is what Cam Newton wants the identity of the offense to be. “Maximize opportunities. If we have to score, we have to score… If we have to run, we have to run…if it’s 3rd and 1…we have to execute, each and every play.” No excuses.
Rivera: We can “control” some things better. More effectiveness in the red zone. Make the most out of the opportunities to score. No turnovers. “When you put yourself in position (to score) you have to score, whether it’s three or seven.” About Cam this year, Rivera claims, Cam is more mature, more comfortable, and more savvy. He’s learned an awful lot…and he can do those things to help us and give us opportunities to win football games.
Written By: Phillip Boyce