Rivera: Newton right where QB should be in Year 2


Rivera: Newton right where QB should be in Year 2

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) Coach Ron Rivera said despite some growing pains he believes Cam Newton is improving and is ``right where you want a second-year quarterback to be.''

Newton's overall record as an NFL starter is just 9-18 and he hasn't come close this year to matching the numbers he put up as a rookie, leaving Rivera to answer repeated questions about a possible sophomore slump.

Still, Rivera said Carolina's 30-22 victory Monday night over Philadelphia only reaffirms his belief Newton is making steady strides. Newton threw for 306 yards and had four touchdowns - two passing and two rushing - in the victory.

The Panthers expected more of those types of performances this season from Newton, last year's AP Offensive Rookie of the Year. But sometimes it takes time for young quarterbacks to learn and develop, Rivera said.

``People are throwing different things at him now,'' Rivera said. ``They're trying to throw things that have worked against him at him, and he's learning those things and understanding them.''

Rivera said the coaching staff's decision to ``take things off his plate'' midway through the season has been instrumental in Newton's increased production in recent weeks.

The Panthers added several new twists in the playbook during the offseason figuring opposing defenses would be better prepared to stop Newton after getting months to study him on tape.

But midway through the season, with Newton struggling to produce, Rivera and his staff decided to scale back the playbook and simplify a few things for him.

``I think the thing is we put a lot on his plate earlier in the year,'' Rivera said. ``We've taken some of it back and he has reacted to that very well now, and I think we are starting to find the balance that we need with him. The last few weeks he has been outstanding and he has given us chances to win, and this is the first time that we as a team took advantage of it.''

In the past few four games Newton has thrown for six touchdown passes and only two interceptions. In the previous seven games he had five TDs and eight picks. He has six rushing TDs this season, three of those in the past four weeks.

One of the things the Panthers did to help Newton was reduce the number of zone read option plays - ones where Newton has to make a split-second decision on whether to run or handoff.

Instead the Panthers have gone to more traditional running plays and tried to give more carries to running backs Jonathan Stewart and DeAngelo Williams.

``We are really trying to balance it out and spread it among the other players,'' Rivera said. ``He has really responded very well to those things and it is funny because he did not want us to take anything off, he wanted more, and I think we had to give him an opportunity to take a breath once in a while.''

Rivera said Newton has responded well.

``These last few weeks he has played like the guy that we believe he can become,'' Rivera said.

Another sign of Newton's developing maturation is his ability to change plays at the line of scrimmage, something he did with greater frequency in the win against the Eagles.

``I think he's starting to get comfortable with those things and really as he improves and learns those things he's getting better and better at it,'' Rivera said.

Teammates also see Newton getting more comfortable in a leadership role as he nears the end of his second season.

Newton was careful not to step on the toes of veteran players last season as a rookie. At times this season teammates have questioned his leadership ability, but veteran offensive tackle Jordan Gross said he sees the former Heisman Trophy winner making steady progress in that area.

``The last two weeks I have seen it,'' Gross said. ``He played well last week (in a 27-21 overtime loss to Tampa Bay) and we were not able to win. But he's leading the team. He's on the sidelines talking to the o-line, talking to the receivers, doing everything we all wanted him to do. In the huddle, he's saying the right things. If he can continue to play this way and lead this way, the sky is the limit for him.''

Newton said his biggest challenge this year has been consistency.

It's been a rollercoaster season with a good game followed by a bad one, something he's desperately trying to change.

``I know personally, I feel like with the throws it was kind of high, kind of low, kind of everywhere,'' Newton said after Carolina's win over the Eagles. ``I just want to focus on being more consistent.''

Statistically, the Philadelphia game was Newton's best performance of the season.

Just don't try telling him that.

``Absolutely not,'' he said. ``I think my best game is still yet to come.''

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3 reasons the Caps beat the Stars

3 reasons the Caps beat the Stars

The Washington Capitals had not beaten the Dallas Stars at home since 2006, Alex Ovechkin's second season in the NHL. That streak ended on Tuesday in a 4-3 Caps win.

Here's how the Caps were finally able to down Dallas in Washington.

Oshie still hot

After going 19 straight games without a goal, T.J. Oshie has been red-hot of late with four goals in his last four games. He scored Washington’s first goal in what would become a three-goal period for the Caps as they battled back from a 1-0 deficit into a 3-3 tie through 40 minutes. Oshie also added an assist as he won a power play faceoff that John Carlson fed to Alex Ovechkin for the goal.


Ovechkin victimizing his favorite target

You knew Ovechkin would score given he was playing against one of his favorite targets. With his second period goal, Ovechkin now has 22 goals against Kari Lehtonen in his career, tied with Henrik Lundqvist for the most goals he has scored on any netminder. Lehtonen has not been in the Eastern Conference since the 2008-09 season. When he goes to sleep at night, Ovechkin is who he sees in his nightmares.

The Carlson-Klingberg duel

Carlson and John Klingberg entered Tuesday’s game each with 59 points, tied for the league lead in points among defensemen. Carlson downplayed the matchup both before and after the game, but it was clear that both players were playing at another level all game long. While both players tallied two points on the night, you have to give the win to Carlson as he had the most significant point, a game-winning goal in the third period.


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Redskins make contract offer to pass rusher Pernell McPhee, per report


Redskins make contract offer to pass rusher Pernell McPhee, per report

Free agent pass rusher Pernell McPhee visited the Redskins on Monday, and by Tuesday night a report emerged that Washington offered the veteran outside linebacker a contract.

Last week, Trent Murphy signed with the Buffalo Bills and things remain uncertain between the Redskins and Junior Galette. That means the organization has a need for an edge rushing linebacker, and that's exactly the role McPhee can play. 

A 29-year-old that played the last three seasons with the Bears, McPhee posted 14 sacks while in Chicago. Prior to his time with the Bears, McPhee was a solid contributor on some good Ravens teams. 


His best season in Baltimore came in 2014 when he posted 7.5 sacks. That's also the last season McPhee played a full 16 game schedule. He's missed 12 games over the last three years in Chicago. 

McPhee could provide the Redskins with solid veteran depth at outside linebacker, and he's also considered a plus defender against the run. With Ryan Kerrigan and Preston Smith cemented as the starting outside linebackers, if signed, McPhee would pair up with Ryan Anderson on Washington's second unit. At 6-foot-2 and 275 lbs., McPhee carries more weight on his frame than either Kerrigan or Smith. 

Pro Football Focus gave McPhee a strong grade for the 2017 season. He notched a +11.5 and ranked 13th out of 46 outside linebackers graded. For comparison, Broncos star Von Miller ranked 1st at +57, Kerrigan ranked 8th at +22.9 and Galette ranked 10th at +16.2.

It's unclear what a move for McPhee would mean between the Redskins and Galette, but it's hard to imagine it helps.

Free agent Johnathan Hankins also visited Washington on Monday, and while he plays an interior defensive line position different from McPhee, it's also unclear what this offer would do to any negotiations between the Redskins and Hankins. 

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