SPARTANBURG, S.C. -- As we’ve already started to see the last couple of days, it really is a new era for the Carolina Panthers with John Fox out as the coach and Ron Rivera in his place.
In the Fox days, players rarely discussed strategy, mainly because they were told not to. And Fox went out of his way to avoid anything he thought might give opponents a strategic advantage. In his mind, that meant just about every topic was off limits.
But just wandering Carolina’s camp at Wofford College the last few days, I got a strong sense that Rivera’s not running a silent ship. Players were talking and they were talking strategy. Middle linebacker Jon Beason was always a pleasant sort but used to play by Fox’s rules. Now that the rules have changed Beason’s not afraid to give a preview of what Carolina’s defense will look like this season.
“It will be a night-and-day difference," Beason said. “If we blitzed 30 percent of the time last year, we’re probably going to blitz 65 or 70 percent of the time this year.
“You look at [defensive coordinator Sean] McDermott’s track record with the Philadelphia Eagles," Beason said. “When you say Philadelphia Eagles, you always think about a very aggressive defense. That’s encouraging. Coach Rivera, having been a player on championship teams, and coaching with some very good teams. That part of it is encouraging."
Heck, Beason is enjoying the new-found freedom of speech so much that he even previewed the offense. Coordinator Rob Chudzinski and Beason were together at the University of Miami.
“I know Chudzinski’s scheme,’’ Beason said. “He’s going to try to mess with you mentally, moving guys around and a lot of shifts. There’s going to be a lot of pressure on our offense to learn it. If they can get it down, it’s going to help us as a defense to get to the point where we can make some more plays."