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What's Different This Year? Cam Newton, Ron Rivera and the Carolina Panthers

We spoke with Cat Scratch Reader this week to get some insight on the Panthers, Cam Newton, and more.

Jim Brown-USA TODAY Sports

We spoke with Jaxon from Cat Scratch Reader this week to get some insight on the Panthers, Cam Newton, and more.

1. Ron Rivera has been the HC of the Panthers since 2011. Before this year, his record over that time was 32-31-1. He was coming off of a losing 7-8-1 season, which was especially disappointing considering the 12-4 season just prior. Cam Newton joined the Panthers the same year as Rivera. He was 5-8-1 in the 14 games he played in last year. His completion percentage was down. His passing yards had decreased every season in the league. His TDs, passer rating, and QBR were all career lows. There was talk that the Panthers couldn't reach their goals with Rivera and Newton leading the team. What's changed this year?

I would point to two things to answer this question. It started with improvement in the offensive line which has allowed Newton more time to make reads and throw downfield. Newton is not a WC-type passer, he is much better throwing downfield but he needs time to do that. In 2014 he didn't get it and his yards per pass attempt was way off from his first two seasons under Chudzinski. The second thing is Newton has gotten much better at his pre-snap adjustments. You'll see him change the call at the LOS throughout the game. So really it hasn't been anything Rivera has done, more the OL, Newton and OC Mike Shula.

2. Mike Tolbert's touches are down this year. He was a Pro Bowler two years ago and has been a cog for the Panthers. He's one of the top FBs in the game, yet he's touching the ball less this year than he ever has as a Panther. Why the diminished role in the offense?

Honestly I'm not sure but you are correct on the reduced role. I would imagine that Newton running the ball a little more accounts for some of it. It might be Newton just not going his way in his pre-snap reads. Regardless I'd love to see Tolbert get more check down passes out of the backfield.

3. Personally, Cam Newton's dancing last week didn't bother me one bit. I don't even get why it's a story, really. But it is. Why is this being talked about so much and do you think it puts a target on Cam's back?

I think a target on Newton's back has been there for quite some time (bounty-gate) but I do agree Newton seems to get more scrutinized for doing things others have done as well with less criticism. I'm with you, I loved it and thought those two extra ‘Umph!' he gave the Titans LB was hilarious. I'll point out it was the same Titans LB that did a Drake dance after sacking Newton earlier in the game. If you can dish it out you had better be able to take it.

4. Give us one under-the-radar player on either side of the ball for Carolina who is going to have a big impact on the game Sunday.

Hmmm...on defense S Kurt Coleman has been balling out. He's had a couple INTs the last couple of games and has been money in run support. If you haven't heard of DT Kawann Short yet you might Sunday.

On offense rookie WR Devin Funchess is starting to get more targets. He has the size to be a red zone threat though he's only scored once this season so far. He could break out at any point.

5. How would you defend Carolina's offense if you were the Redskins coach? How would you attack Carolina's defense?

Rule #1 is you cover TE Greg Olsen starting at the LOS. The Titans gave him a free release the entire first half for some weird reason. He torched them early in the game until they adjusted. From there play tight coverage and stop the run first, whether it's Stewart, Tolbert or Newton. You then have to get pressure on 3rd down. The Titans sacked Newton five times by bringing free blitzers from different directions. I bet more teams do that going forward.

Bonus: Who wins and why?

The Panthers are 9-0 and at home as a 10 point favorite. Hard not to pick them. I think the Redskins keep it close in the 1st half but the Panthers pull away late.

Panthers 31 Redskins 16