People often overlook the importance of special teams, but when your offense and defense are sputtering, special teams can make all the difference. Field position, missed points, it all comes from special teams. We Panthers fans know just how true this can be as we’ve watched time and time again as our opponents take off down the sideline for another punt return or kick return TD. Likewise, we haven’t seen those big plays come from our own special teams returners and it often results in poor starting field position, or even turnovers if you’re last name is Edwards or Adams. But if you look at teams like the San Francisco 49ers you’ll see just how big a role special teams plays. Last year the Niners had one of the best punter and kicker combinations in the league which took them to the brink of the Super Bowl, and they seemed to be in control until a costly fumbled punt return gave the ball back to Eli, who did what he does best.
The Panthers have had their share of coverage and return issues and as a result fired Special Teams coordinator Brian Murphy, making way for Coach Rivera’s former team mate at Cal, Richard Rodgers. Rodgers was hired over the past offseason as an assistant to Murphy but with no improvements, changes were necessary. Rodgers looks to keep things simple with a “Controlled. Intense. Aggressive.” approach that should help contain opponents and give our defense a better chance to make stops deep in opponent territory.
In other news, Armanti Edwards’s injury coupled with the loss of Pilares makes room for rookie Joe Adams to make up for lost fumbles earlier in the season. We’ve all seen what Adams can do on returns, just search Joe Adams punt on Youtube and see what he did against Tennessee. That video alone has over 350,000 views (and can be viewed below). We need to control the field position battle much better if we are going to stand a chance while our offense and defense continue to work out their own issues. At least this gives us a fighting chance.