Ron Rivera feeling good about Panthers

Based on the success Cam Newton had last season and how the Carolina Panthers worked to a 6-10 record despite massive injuries on defense, they are a curious team to track this year.

If Newton develops further he’s got a solid offensive line and ground game to help out. The Panthers fortified the defense in the draft and have most of those injured players back in place.

All of a sudden, second-year coach Ron Rivera is feeling pretty good about things. He started by praising the offensive line in comments to the Charlotte Observer. But he’s happy with the offense almost across the board.

I’m really pleased with what we’re getting from the running back position,” Rivera said. “I think there’s a great combination there along with our quarterbacks, and those groups have been significantly ahead of where they were last year.”

One player he wants to see more from is defensive end Charles Johnson, who got a blockbuster deal in free agency last summer. They paid him essentially as the replacement for Julius Peppers and he needs to elevate his game.

“Charles Johnson is very consistent right now but we need him to take it to another level,” Rivera said. “He’s doing the things we want him to do, but we want him to do more. That’s why we have him here.”

We’ll see what the Panthers look like in the division this season. With all the turmoil the Saints could take a step back and open up the NFC South for a wide-open race.

Follow me on Twitter: @BradBiggs

Brad Biggs covers the Bears for the Chicago Tribune

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