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PANTHERS: It’s Fun Playing in Front of Charlotte, NC

Posted Dec 12, 2013

Transcripts of Panthers' Wednesday conference calls with Jets reporters.

PANTHERS LB LUKE KUECHLY

On why the Panthers’ front seven has been so successful…

I think up front, the front four guys have a lot of depth. A lot of the guys, they’re two-deep at each position and when you have that ability to slide guys in at each position, they’re fresh, they’re coming in ready to play and any time those guys are fresh and do a great job, it makes everyone else better around them.

On if it has surprised some of the veterans that Star Lotulelei and Kawann Short have contributed so quickly…

They came in and they worked hard. They listened. They were coachable and they understood that it was not going to be easy. I think that’s one thing that’s helped them out a bunch, they’re willing to learn. The other thing is they have older guys around them. Charles [Johnson], Dwan [Edwards], Colin Cole and Greg Hardy are guys who have been around [and] know what it takes. They’ve done a good job kind of helping those guys out through this years.

On what the home crowds have been like in Charlotte…

They’ve been great the whole year. When we started poorly, they were great. As we’ve been improving this year, they’ve been even better. They’re loud. They come out. They’ve been strong. It’s fun playing in front of Charlotte.

On the physical run ability of Chris Ivory

Yeah, I was actually going to say the same thing. He’s a good player. He runs strong. He’s physical in between the tackles. He finishes runs. That’s something that makes it difficult. He’s one of those guys at the end of the game, he’s still going as hard as when he started. We have to do a good job like we try to do every week of keeping guys in front of us, playing our gaps and just playing sound football.

On playing for Ron Rivera…

He’s great. He’s a guy who loves football. He loves being around it. I think he wishes at times he could play and strap it back up. He’s been very consistent the whole year. He’s been the same guy. That’s something I think everybody respects about him. He doesn’t get too high, doesn’t get too low. He’s good at motivating guys.

On if you are born with instincts or are they developed…

I think it’s probably a little bit of both. I think to a certain extent you have them. The other extent of it is if you can study film and listen to the game plan that the coaches lined up, tendencies, personnel groupings, things like that, if you can combine the two, studying and instincts, it helps you out quite a bit.

On the Jets' offense…

I think they’re dangerous. That’s one thing that they do have. Like you said, they have Chris Ivory [and] Kellen Winslow. I think [Jeff] Cumberland is better than a lot of people think. You have Santonio Holmes, who’s been around for a while and is a playmaker. I think the one guys who’s their wild card is [Jeremy] Kerley. I think he does a good job in space. He’s quick. He’s one of those slot guys that you have to know where he is.

On Carolina’s secondary…

I think one thing is just the experience of those guys. You look around, Drayton Florence, I think he [has 11 years of experience]. Quintin Mikell’s up there, too. Those guys have been around for a while. Mike Mitchell, he was in Oakland for a couple years. Captain Munnerlyn has been around. Like you said, they’re from all over the place, but they do have a lot of experience. [Steve] Wilks and Curtis Fuller, the coaches, do a good job getting those guys ready to go each week.

On his former college teammate Chris Pantale

Oh, man, that’s my guy. Chris is a good dude. That’s one of the questions I think is hard is to describe how your friends play. Chris is a big body. He’s physical and he catches the ball. That’s one thing that was consistent with him is that you throw the ball near Chris, he’s going to catch it. We kind of leaned on him quite a bit when I was in school. We knew that Chris was going to be consistent the whole year. He was going to play through injuries. He was hurt, but he’d stick it out. I’m glad he’s up there.

On what he has seen from Geno Smith, particularly his pocket presence…

I haven’t had a chance to watch him quite as much. I’ve watched the run game, stuff like that. What I have seen is he throws a good seam ball. I think that’s probably one of his balls he likes throwing. He gets it where it needs to be. I think one thing with him is he’s more athletic than I think guys give him credit for. He runs the read option well, he can get out of trouble in the pocket. Guys will be swarming around him, he’ll sneak out and make a throw. One thing that’s been different from what we’ve faced the last couple of weeks is a guy who can get out of the pocket, escape, make throws on the move.

On what he has seen from the way the Jets use their tight ends…

Yes, they do a good job. Kellen Winslow adds a different dimension to those guys. He’s a guy who can get down the field in space. They have guys who can block too. I think they have a good range of tight ends, from pass catchers to run blockers to guys in between.

On the play of Lotulelei…

I think he’s done a great job. He’s stout, he’s physical, he’s strong. He plays strong in his gap and I think when he does that, it lets Thomas and I, Chase [Blackburn], or A.J. [Klein] whoever’s in there run around and make plays. I think he understands what his job [is]. He doesn’t do too much, he does what he’s asked and he works hard. I think that’s one of the biggest things that guys really respect about him. He’s here to work, he works hard and he does his job to the best of his ability.

On if teams have run the ball less against them due to their effectiveness…

I haven’t really quite noticed that as much. I know last week, they were throwing the ball really well. They didn’t necessarily have to run. I think one thing that’s helped us with that aspect is our offense has been on the field quite a bit and put points up, so when they put the points up, the teams obviously have to throw to get back into it. I think that’s one of the factors that’s limited run games against us.

PANTHERS HEAD COACH RON RIVERA

On what he has seen from Geno Smith on film…

I’ll tell you what, you watch the Raiders game [and] you see a young man who’s showing [development]. You see his abilities, you see his decision-making and he did some nice things. Again, he’s really developing and growing, but you do see flashes, you see the potential. I think there’s most certainly a lot of promise in this young man’s abilities.

On what has impressed him about the Jets defense…

I think their opportunistic approach to things. They’re very aggressive football players, who play downhill. They attack and they’re opportunistic.

On if he has seen anything from the Jets defense the last few weeks that might indicate regression…

No, again, I like what I see on tape. I think what Rex [Ryan] does defensively is very dynamic. He’s very aggressive, he’s an aggressive playcaller. I think his players react to that very well and I think they have playmakers in position.

On if he anticipates similar schemes to what he saw against Saints DC Rob Ryan…

Yes, very much so. I see a lot of comparisons in the things that they do. Their schemes are similar, but again, they each have their own personalities. They’ll do things the way that they think is right.

On the approach to defending the physical Chris Ivory…

That’s exactly what we are going to face is a very physical, hard runner. We have to make sure we’re gap-sound, we’re where we’re supposed to be and we’re good tacklers. I bet and I really haven’t looked at the stat, but I bet his yards after contact are probably very solid. I like the way he runs. I like the way he plays football. I think they do a great job. They rush for about 130 yards a game, so obviously they can do something very well running the ball. You have to be at your best against them.

On the reason behind the perception of Cam Newton "finally putting it together”…

I think he’s probably more consistent in his decision-making. I think for the most part he has protected the ball very well. Last week was a little bit of a disappointment, obviously, for us as a whole, but I think he’s done the things you would expect from a guy in his third season in the system. I think he’s just matured. It’s a matter of time.

Like I said, there are some similarities between him and Geno Smith. I think this is a young, athletic quarterback with a good arm, makes good decisions, is learning to make good decisions, and he’s only in the first year of Marty [Mornhinweg]'s offense. I coached with Marty when we were in Philadelphia together. I know he’s a very bright coach and I think he sees a lot of promise in Geno’s game.

On if Luke Kuechly’s range is more mental or instinctual…

I think it’s a combination. I think he’s a very instinctual player. He’s a good athlete and I think he’s also a very smart player. I think as all things go together you have a very good football player and I think that’s what he is.

On why they have been so good against the run…

It’s the discipline of what we do. I think our guys understand the concepts that we play. I think the guys understand how important it is to be disciplined and I think the play of our front seven has been solid.

On if he has noticed teams running the ball less in the last few weeks against them…

Not necessarily. Part of it also could be the situation of the game as well. You get a little bit of a lead, teams want to throw the ball a little bit more. When the game has been close, like against Miami, they kept trying to pound us. Again, I think it all depends on how the flow of the game is.

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