On defense, a horde of offseason additions will help a unit that repeatedly let them down in 2015. Tackle Malik Jackson, free safety Tashaun Gipson and cornerback Prince Amukamara can all make an immediate impact. Scanning the roster, there’s talent — or potential — at almost every position.
Most importantly, owner Shad Khan has patiently refused to panic, giving general manager David Caldwell and coach Gus Bradley the time to develop a squad that looks ready to compete in the AFC. It’s premature to ticket the Jags for January play, but House isn’t the only believer in NFL circles.
Lee, 34, is a three-time Pro Bowl punter. He spent his first 11 seasons with the San Francisco 49ers before being sent to Cleveland last season. Lee ranks sixth in NFL history with a 46.2 gross punting average. Last season Lee set a single-season Browns record with a 46.7-yard gross average.
In Friday’s Browns tilt with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Lee took some grief from Cleveland coach Hue Jackson for a lackadaisical effort in chasing down a punt return that went for a 73-yard touchdown.
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The scary part about what happened inside Bank of America Stadium isn’t that Carolina lost at home for the first time since Nov. 16. 2014. It’s that Minnesota beat the home team with a formula that has worked so well for the Panthers in the past. The Vikings were the team that didn’t flinch in the face of adversity, especially not when Carolina rolled out to a 10-0 lead in the first quarter. Minnesota clearly believed in its game plan and wholesale nfl jerseys and it aided this team when it mattered most.
For all the fun the Panthers displayed while going 15-1 in the 2015 regular season, it was easy to forget how blue collar this squad was, how much it relied on grit and efficiency to match the stylish showmanship of eventual league MVP Cam Newton. These were the very things that were missing at crunch time against the Vikings. As Panthers head coach Ron Rivera said after the defeat, “We can’t turn the ball over. We can’t miss opportunities. We can’t have penalties that take away opportunities. Again, it’s going to start with me … I’m going to make sure things get corrected and that’s just the way it has to be. We got beat because we didn’t do the things we were supposed to do and they just kept plugging away.”
The Panthers entered the 2016 season with a streak of 32 consecutive games over 100 rushing yards — the longest such stretch since 1976. Since that streak came to an end in early October, they have been held under the century mark five more times. Lead back Jonathan Stewart turned back the clock for a season-high 132 yards in Week 15, but has otherwise averaged a problematic 3.6 yards per carry. Due nearly $6 million in 2017, Stewart will be a 30-year-old back with too much mileage under his belt, diminishing speed and a lengthy injury history.
Whether or not Stewart is retained, general manager Dave Gettleman has to place a priority on finding his successor. Scat back Fozzy Whittaker is limited to change-of-pace duty and kickoff returns, while 2015 fifth-round pick Cameron Artis-Payne has yet to crack the rotation. It’s past time to add a dynamic playmaking element to this backfield.
The troubling optics of Jones’ 300-yard game against the Panthers last weekend apparently provided enough motivation for a complete shakeup. It would not have been surprising to see the 25-year-old bumped down a notch anyway in the wake of last week’s disaster, though Carolina seems more content moving on entirely. Coach Ron Rivera said earlier in the week that Benwikere was in an open competition for his spot.
Interestingly enough, Benwikere admitted to having some conditioning issues Sunday. He said that the Falcons would take Jones out of the game and ask whichever receiver replaced him to run a deep route against Benwikere. Then, they would put Jones back in and run the same thing, allowing the All-Pro receiver to get a step on the tired cornerback.
NFL Media Insider Ian Rapoport reported Wednesday that the Carolina Panthers signed the free-agent safety to a one-year contract, per a source with knowledge of the move. The team later confirmed the deal.
Brown was out of football last season after stints with the Giants, Colts and Raiders. He started 19 games for New York between 2012 and 2014 and spent part of the 2011 offseason with the Panthers before reuniting with the team this week.