BRADENTON, Fla. -- When you have to open your season against a coaching staff that never has been together before in the National Football League, there’s only one thing to do.
Go back and watch film of Rutgers in recent years. It may sound unusual, but it really is what makes the most sense.
That’s what Carolina coach Ron Rivera and his staff have done as they prepare for Sunday’s season opener against Tampa Bay coach Greg Schiano, the former Rutgers coach.
Rivera, who made his own debut as an NFL head coach last year, faced the Bucs twice last season but admits he expects Schiano’s team to look dramatically different from what predecessor Raheem Morris put on the field last season.
“You take what they did in the preseason and you try to study that and then you look at where they’ve come from,’’ Rivera said Wednesday after the Panthers worked out at IMG Academy. “Knowing what coach Schiano’s done and what he’s been about at Rutgers, I’d like to think that we have an idea. It’s going to be hard. Honestly, I’d like to open up with somebody we’re familiar with. But, unfortunately, it’s the way it is, so we get ready for it and we react to it and just get ready for them. The big thing is we just have to react. We have to be prepared to make decisions and changes.’’
The Panthers also have studied the New York Giants’ offense because that’s the system in which Tampa Bay coordinator Mike Sullivan was groomed.
“It’s tough,’’ Carolina middle linebacker Jon Beason said. “You look at their offensive coordinator. I think he was quarterbacks coach for the Giants last year, so you’ve got to watch some film there. You see there’s some carryover or some common concepts as far as the running game or the passing game. Then, you’ve got to go with what you saw in the preseason. It makes it tough, but you’ve got to expect the unexpected. They’re going to have some wrinkles and so will we.’’