Tagged in: Carolina Panthers

Carolina Panthers agree to deal with CB Eli Apple

Free-agent cornerback Eli Apple has agreed to sign with the Carolina Panthers, the team announced Thursday.

The 24-year-old had previously agreed to a deal with the Las Vegas Raiders, as ESPN’s Adam Schefter noted March 18, but Schefter reported April 2 that the two sides “were unable to finalize a contract.”

Apple’s NFL career started when the New York Giants drafted him 10th overall in 2016. He had a tumultuous two-plus campaigns before the Giants traded him to the New Orleans Saints in October 2018.

“There’s only just one corner that … needs to grow, and we all know who that is. That would be the only person I would change out of our secondary group. Besides, the other two guys, [Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie] and [Janoris Jenkins], I love those two guys. They play hard. They love what they do. But that first pick … he’s a cancer.”

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Apple played 30 matches (23 starts) for the Giants with one pick, two forced fumbles, 20 passes defended and 100 tackles (82 solo).

In the Bayou, he started all 25 regular-season matches he appeared in and recorded two interceptions one forced fumble and 58 tackles (53 solo).

Pro Football Focus graded Apple at 62.9 as a Giant and 65.0 as a Saint. For reference, San Francisco 49ers All-Pro Richard Sherman was Pro Football Focus’ top-ranked cornerback for the 2019 regular season, and he had an overall grade of 88.9.

The Panthers lost cornerback James Bradberry to the New York Giants in free agency. The team then drafted former Notre Dame cornerback Troy Pride Jr. in the fourth round and former Florida International cornerback Stantley Thomas-Oliver III in the seventh round of April’s draft.

Apple will apparently compete for the opportunity to start alongside 24-year-old Donte Jackson at cornerback for the Panthers, who ranked 20th against the pass last year.

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Panthers make Christian McCaffrey NFL’s Highest-paid RB

Days after indicating the Carolina Panthers were “obviously” aiming to extend Christian McCaffrey with a new contract, general manager Marty Hurney has done just that. As first reported by ESPN’s Adam Schefter, the Panthers have signed McCaffrey to a new deal worth $16 million per season, resetting the RB market and making McCaffrey the highest-paid back in NFL history.

NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport has echoed Schefter’s report, noting that McCaffrey’s new contract is a four-year, $64 million deal. While the total value of the extension doesn’t top that of the six-year, $90 million deal Ezekiel Elliott signed with the Dallas Cowboys ahead of the 2019 season, the $16M average annual salary ranks first in the league, just ahead of Elliott ($15M).

Lucrative RB contracts have become increasingly polarizing as the league seemingly devalues the position, what with the New York Jets apparently looking to trade Pro Bowler Le’Veon Bell less than a year into a $52.5M deal and the Los Angeles Rams this offseason cutting ties with Todd Gurley two years after providing him $45M guaranteed.

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McCaffrey, however, might be one of the few exceptions when it comes to RBs worth a big-money extension.

The Stanford product has demonstrated just as, if not more, dangerous as a pass catcher than as a traditional ball-carrier, breaking the NFL record for receptions by a RB in back-to-back campaigns. Drafted eighth overall by the Panthers in 2017, he’s had two straight 1,000-yard rushing seasons to go along with two straight 100-catch performances, totaling nearly 2,400 total yards and 19 touchdowns in 2019.

Still just 23, McCaffrey figures to be a centerpiece of new coach Matt Rhule’s rebuild.

“I’m so excited to continue my career in Carolina,” the RB told ESPN. “I want to thank Mr. (David) Tepper, Marty Hurney, and Coach Rhule for the opportunity to help lead this great franchise, and to all my teammates for their help along the way.”

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Redskins get QB Kyle Allen in trade with Panthers

The Redskins have been talking about trades when it comes to Trent Williams and Quinton Dunbar, but on Monday, the team in fact completed a deal.

Washington acquired quarterback Kyle Allen from Carolina and sent a fifth-round pick to the Panthers in return for the passer, according to NFL Network reports. 

After some rumors about Cam Newton, the Burgundy and Gold landed a far less famous signal caller from Ron Rivera’s former franchise, but one that makes a lot of sense for his new one.

Allen, who just turned 24 years old, entered the NFL as an undrafted free agent in 2018 out of the University of Houston after initially starting his college career at Texas A&M.

Allen started the 2018 campaign finale for the Panthers and started 12 more contests in 2019 in place of an injured Newton, before ceding the job to Will Grier for the final few weeks.

He concluded last year with a 5-7 record and a passer rating of 80. He threw 17 touchdowns, 16 interceptions and completed 62-percent of his passes.

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This trade gives the Redskins someone who’ll be very familiar with Rivera and Scott Turner’s plan on offense, something that could be even more valuable than normal thanks to the unusual offseason that may be ahead for the NFL. 

The trade also should put to rest any question of Dwayne Haskins’ status on the depth chart.

While Allen definitely flourished at times in Carolina — his best pro games top Haskins’ best — and he should be able to give some level of heat on Washington’s first-rounder, it’s hard to imagine him beating Haskins out as of now.

Some will take issue with the Redskins swapping a fifth-rounder for Allen — the Panthers had a surplus of signal callers after adding XFL star PJ Walker earlier Monday — but it’s a move that they clearly felt like they had to make before a possible release.

Washington now has a young, ideal backup in place who should be able to fill in for Haskins if need be, but overall, can move forward with Haskins as their No. 1 QB. Rivera may not come out and declare that, but his actions definitely indicate it.

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Panthers sign quarterback Kyle Allen to a one-year deal

The Panthers have signed quarterback Kyle Allen to a one-year contract extension.

Allen was an exclusive rights free agent, meaning the Panthers essentially held all of his rights. The financial terms were not available on Tuesday.

The 24-year-old Allen replaced an injured Cam Newton in Week 3 last campaign. Allen started off his second NFL season by leading Carolina to four consecutive wins, but struggled down the stretch and was eventually replaced by rookie Will Grier when the Panthers fell out of playoff contention.

Allen concluded the season 5-7 as a starter. He threw for 3,322 yards with a 62 percent completion rate, but turnovers were a major problem. Allen combined for 23 turnovers – 16 on interceptions and seven on fumbles – and had just 17 touchdown passes.

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It’s unclear where Allen stands in the pecking order at quarterback this season.

The Panthers haven’t made a clear ruling on whether Newton will return in 2020.

Newton has one year left on his contract, but the team could save $19 million under this year’s NFL salary if it decides to cut or release the injury-plagued quarterback. Newton has struggled with elbow and foot issues the last two seasons and has lost his last eight starts for Carolina.

He has shown steady progress and has posted numerous videos and pictures on social media showing him throwing and moving on his left foot without limitation.

Grier is also under contract, and it’s possible the Panthers could select a quarterback with the No. 7 overall pick.

Newton is expected to be ready to begin offseason workouts on April 6 at least on a limited basis

Allen becomes the fifth exclusive rights free agent to re-sign with Carolina, joining defensive end Efe Obada, running back Reggie Bonnafon, kicker Joey Slye and defensive back Cole Luke.

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Redskins hire Jennifer King, NFL´s first African American female full-time intern

Jennifer King, who acted as a Carolina Panthers intern during the 2017 preseason, has joined the Washington Redskins’ staff as a full-time assistant coach.

“Jennifer is a bright young coach and will be a great addition to our staff,” head coach Ron Rivera said in the team’s release. “Her familiarity with my expectations as a coach and my firsthand knowledge of her work ethic and preparation were big factors in bringing her to the Redskins.”

Rhiannon Walker of The Athletic first reported the hire on Saturday.

King is the first full-time African American female coach in league history and the fourth female with a full-time assistant job overall, per Walker. Collette Smith was the NFL’s first black female coach, serving as an intern with the New York Jets in 2017.

King acted as an intern for Carolina from May through August 2017 under then-Panthers head coach Ron Rivera, who now leads the ‘Skins after being hired in December.

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Since then, King worked as an assistant wide receivers coach for the now-defunct Alliance of American Football’s Arizona Hotshots and as an offensive assistant for Dartmouth College.

Both teams excelled in 2019

The Hotshots co-led the AAF West division with a 5-3 record when the league folded. The Big Green went 9-1 (6-1 Ivy League) and ended second in their conference.

Previous to her Panthers’ coaching stint, King played in the semi-pro Women’s Football Alliance, winning three championships. She also coached youth and high school teams, per Walker.

As has been the case throughout her coaching career, King will work on the offensive side of the ball, specially with Washington’s running backs.

She joins Tampa Bay Buccaneers assistant defensive line coach Lori Locust, Bucs assistant strength and conditioning coach Maral Javadifar and San Francisco 49ers offensive assistant Katie Sowers as the only women working as full-time NFL coaches.

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Redskins hire Ron Rivera as new head coach

Over Daniel Snyder’s time as the Redskins’ owner, Washington is where good coaches land to die. Since 2000, when Snyder made Norv Turner the first coach he fired, not one coach has left Washington with a winning record. Even coaches with great résumés like Marty Schottenheimer, Mike Shanahan and Steve Spurrier couldn’t do it.

Rivera is up next. The two-time NFL Coach of the Year with the Carolina Panthers agreed to be the next coach of the Redskins, per Ian Rapoport of NFL Network.

Rivera’s career with Carolina started slowly, but he eneded 76-63-1 as Panthers coach. He won NFL Coach of the Year in 2013 and 2015. In 2015, his 15-1 Panthers made the Super Bowl, only to come up short versus the Denver Broncos. Rivera was fired during the 2019 season as the Panthers slumped without quarterback Cam Newton.

Rivera’s abilities as a leader might give him an opportunity to succeed in Washington. He was a great representative of the Panthers franchise, especially during the Jerry Richardson scandal that led to the Panthers’ founder selling the team.

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When Snyder announced he had fired team president Bruce Allen, he said Washington would “reevaluate our team leadership, culture and process for winning football games.”

If anyone can reshape that in Washington with Snyder still owning the team, maybe it’s Rivera. It’ll be a big job, and he’s reportedly going to bring in the big guns to get it done.

ESPN’s Adam Schefter reported that Rivera is expected to target Jack Del Rio as his defensive coordinator, who has proven results in defensive improvements when he was the head coach of the Jacksonville Jaguars and Denver Broncos.

Washington went 3-13, which wasn’t fun, but it means they get the second pick of the 2020 draft. Expect that to be Ohio State pass rusher Chase Young, who looks like a phenomenal prospect. The rest of the roster has a few interesting players. A key is if 2019 first-round pick Dwayne Haskins can develop at quarterback.

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Panthers QB Cam Newton placed on IR with foot injury

Any hope the Carolina Panthers had of seeing former MVP quarterback Cam Newton returning has now flown out the window, with the team having declared they’ll move him to injured reserve with a foot injury that’s sidelined him for most of the season.

Newton sought out additional medical guidance recently when he visited renowned foot specialist Dr. Robert Anderson in Green Bay last week, in the hopes of determining why he’s seen no progress in the rehabilitation from his Lisfranc injury.

Surgery was an alternative from the outset, but Newton opted to forego it with the hopes of a natural heal, which hasn’t gone his way.

It is still undetermined if he’ll now decide to go under the knife — the door on his 2019 season now closed due to the injured reserve designation — which would give him a chance to recover and strengthen his foot in time for 2020.

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Of course, his return to the Panthers may be likely, but isn’t guaranteed, and will in large part be determined later on; and the play of backup Kyle Allen over the remainder of this year will sway the decision in one way or the other.

Newton played in just two games this season and struggled in both due to the pain in his foot, throwing for no touchdowns and an interception on a combined 50 for 89 passing. When healthy, he still one of the best quarterbacks in the league, and he’ll have an opportunity next year to prove that is still the case.

Time will tell if that opportunity will be in Charlotte, but Newton has no plans on hanging up his cleats for good.

“He’s one of the fiercest competitors I’ve been around during my 20-plus years in the league,” Hurney said. “At this time, we have decided that the best decision to reach the goal of bringing the foot back to 100 percent is to place Cam on injured reserve.”

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LB Irvin to make season debut for Panthers

Just a week removed from one of the best pass-rushing performances in franchise history, the defensive front that produced six sacks of eight total sacks against Arizona is getting a boost.

Head coach Ron Rivera announced on Thursday that defensive end Bruce Irvin will make his Panthers debut on Sunday against the Texans.

Irvin missed the first three games of the season after suffering a hamstring injury during preseason practice.

“Having watched him today in practice, I feel very comfortable with having him out there,” Rivera said. “He’ll play on Sunday, so pretty excited about that. He had a good day and it was a lot of fun to watch, it really was.”

Last week against the Cardinals, the Panthers were without longtime defensive tackle Kawann Short, who was sidelined with a shoulder injury. As a result, rookies along the defensive front, like edge rushers Brian Burns and Christian Miller, stepped into the spotlight, as well as veteran defensive end Mario Addison. But as impressive as the young guys have been, defensive tackle Gerald McCoy said there’s just something different about lining up next to an eight-year veteran.

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“He’s a vet,” McCoy said of Irvin. “His mind, just overall, his experience. The young guys have been doing great, but it’ll be great to have another vet out there that’s put in his time in the league. It’ll help out a lot, big time.”

It’s not just the big guys up front who are ready to have Irvin back. Linebacker Luke Kuechly said he’s excited to see the veteran return.

“Bruce has been waiting to come back, he’s worked real hard to get back,” Kuechly said. “When you bring a guy like that in who’s got great energy, I think guys are excited to have him back. He brings energy, brings some speed off the edge. He’s a real physical player and I think he’s going to do a really good job for us.”

Rivera said he expects the unit to take a few plays to get used to having a new player in the mix, but once the defense does adjust, Irvin’s presence will benefit everyone.

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Arizona Cardinals at Carolina Panthers

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While everyone is focused on the other conference championship featuring the rivalry of Tom Brady and Peyton Manning, the NFC title game between the Arizona Cardinals and the Carolina Panthers has what it takes to grab the spotlight this Sunday.

The Panthers have been superb defensively all season long, and when that defense is tested by one of the league’s best offenses from the Cardinals, it’s a kind of game that shouldn’t be missed.

The Arizona Cardinals hope to reach their first Super Bowl since the 2008 season. Carson Palmer is completing 61 percent of his passes for 349 yards, three touchdowns and two interceptions. Palmer has six touchdown passes in his last three games. Larry Fitzgerald and John Brown have combined for 258 receiving yards and one touchdown while Michael Floyd has three receptions. The Arizona Cardinals ground game is averaging 40 yards per contest, and David Johnson leads the way with 35 yards on 15 carries. Defensively, Arizona is allowing 20 points and 386 yards per game. Tony Jefferson leads the Cardinals with nine tackles, Dwight Freeney has one sack and Jerraud Powers has two pass deflections.

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The Carolina Panthers look for their first Super Bowl appearance since the 2003 season. Cam Newton is completing 72.7 percent of his passes for 161 yards, one touchdown and zero interceptions. Newton has three touchdown passes in his last three games. Greg Olsen and Jerricho Cotchery have combined for 99 receiving yards and one touchdown while Ed Dickson has two receptions. The Carolina Panthers ground game is averaging 144 yards per contest, and Jonathan Stewart leads the way with 106 yards and two touchdowns. Defensively, Carolina is allowing 24 points and 403 yards per game. Luke Kuechly leads the Panthers with 11 tackles, Josh Norman has a sack and Robert McClain has one pass deflection. Foswhitt Whittaker is questionable and Jared Allen is doubtful.

The Arizona Cardinals struggled to run the ball well against the Green Bay Packers in their playoff game last week. It is fair to ask if they will be able to do anything against Carolina, considering their defense. Center Lyle Sendlein knows they have to do better.

He was asked if Green Bay really stacked the box against them in their game on Saturday. Sendlein said “not really.”

“We should have had a little more success in the run game against Green Bay,” he explained. “We have things in the game plan for when they do stack the box, and we still didn’t execute so it’s something if we want to keep playing, we’ve got to improve our run game.”

And they have themselves a challenge in Carolina, where the Panthers are the league’s fourth-best defense against the rush.

“We see them as the best defense in the league,” Sendlein said. “Their front seven is something special, so we’ll have our challenges this week.”

Head coach Bruce Arians indicated they don’t need to run the ball to take the pressure off the passing game, “because that’s who we are on offense,” but they need to do it more effectively

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Carolina Panthers at Dallas Cowboys

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The undefeated Carolina Panthers are at the Dallas Cowboys in a Thanksgiving Day special featuring marquee quarterbacks Cam Newton and Tony Romo, to say nothing of the Greg Hardy connection. Kickoff is at 4:30 p.m. Thursday

Carolina is one of just two undefeated teams remaining in the NFL and quarterback Cam Newton is being considered for the MVP due to his outstanding play this season. Newton has always been a strong runner at quarterback, but this season his passing is much improved.

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The Cowboys now have Tony Romo back under center after missing 7 games, Dallas is four games under .500 but is still in the running to win the NFC East, trailing the New York Giants by just two games.

Tony Romo led Dallas to its first win in 8 games last weekend defeating Miami 24-14.

Carolina beat two opponents in the NFC East – Washington and Philadelphia – handily and brings the league’s third highest scoring offense, but faces four of their next five games away from home.

The Carolina defense, albeit not as strong as previous years, is rounding into form and has a strong front seven against the run.

Greg Hardy the defensive end for Dallas will be facing his former team for just the first time since he left last offseason. Carolina will have its talented defensive end Charles Johnson activated to play and give Romo a hard time with his pass rush.

Dallas will look to run the ball with Darren McFadden to take the early pressure off Romo and open passing lanes for him to hit Dez Bryant down field and Jason Witten over the middle.

Dallas has won five straight games outright against Carolina. However, the two teams have not played head to head since October of 2012.

This is probably one of those games that has a score of something like 7-6 after three quarters, as the two defenses battle it out.

Three keys to watch

Can the Panthers keep Hardy off Newton?

This is the game everyone circled when schedules were released in April. The return of Tony Romo makes it more interesting, but all eyes will be on the Cowboys defensive end.

Forcing a Romo moment.

Romo remains one of the game’s great gunslingers. He’s never met a throwing window he didn’t think he could zip a pass through. That has led to plenty of late-game drama – good and bad.

Linebacker play will be key

There might be more interesting matchups (start with Dez Bryant vs. Josh Norman), but this game could be decided by which team best stops the run. Both teams rank among the league’s top eight rushing offenses, with the Panthers’ Jonathan Stewart and Dallas’ Darren McFadden both coming off 100-yard games

 

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