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Carolina Panthers

Dom Capers has seen growth and leadership from Ejiro Evero

Ejiro Evero, Dom Capers

CHARLOTTE — Dom Capers has been in the NFL going on 38 years, so he's seen plenty of coaches in his day.

So when he's asked about new Panthers defensive coordinator Ejiro Evero, the veteran coach's plain-spoken words carry an extra measure of weight.

"I hold him in high regard — for his humility, his intelligence, and his work ethic," Capers said Monday, and when Dom Capers says those things, it matters. "He has all the qualities you're looking for in a coach."

Capers has seen the 42-year-old Evero from a perspective few other coaches have. Evero was Capers' quality control coach in Green Bay in 2016, serving as one of the lowest levels of assistants.

Ejiro Evero

Last year in Denver, Evero was the coordinator, and the 72-year-old Capers was the senior defensive assistant, so Capers has seen the growth in his protege in seven years.

"He did a ton for me in Green Bay," Capers said. "He's very, very intelligent, and organized, and a very humble guy. I was very impressed with him then, and he was one of those guys who you could tell had a bright future."

But it's one thing to help the "old-school" defensive coordinator input hand-written defensive notes into the computer. It's another to understand the material as it goes in and out of the machine.

And Evero's background has given him exposure to some of the best defensive minds of the previous generation and this one.

He also worked as an entry-level assistant in San Francisco under Capers' old coordinator Vic Fangio, so there was a commonality when he got to Green Bay. After a year there, he had a chance to advance himself by going to the Rams as a safeties coach, where he worked under veteran Wade Phillips and then Brandon Staley (also a Fangio apprentice). He got a chance to climb the ladder after the Rams won the Super Bowl to become the defensive coordinator in Denver, so bringing Capers in as a mentor there seemed natural.

Ejiro Evero

They put up good numbers in a challenging environment together, as well. The Broncos ranked seventh in the league in total defense and 14th in points allowed for a team that finished 5-12. They were also hit by big injuries late in the year and had to adjust when the team traded star pass-rusher Bradley Chubb to the Dolphins in midseason.

But beyond his knowledge of systems and schemes, Capers saw a coach in Denver who was growing more and more comfortable leading a room full of players. That's less of the job when you're a quality control coach, obviously much more so when you're the coordinator.

"Teams are always going to reflect the head coach and the coordinator's personality," Capers said. "And it's such an up and down business; the more consistent you are in your approach with them, they appreciate it. When he stands in front of the room, he's direct, he's to the point, and it's in a way that players can relate to.

"As he presents, they see this is how things fit into our game plan; this is what we see as coaches, and they appreciate that."

Panthers right guard Austin Corbett acknowledged that as well. He was with the Rams when Evero was working on the other side of the ball during the Super Bowl run in 2021, so their interactions were limited, but he said Evero "knew how to adapt."

"He can talk to guys in a way they understand," Corbett said. "He has the ability to communicate with you where you are."

Capers also knows new Panthers head coach Frank Reich (he was Reich's head coach here in 1995) and thinks Reich and Evero will fit well together.

"Those guys will be an outstanding team," Capers said. "They're very similar personality-wise. Guys are going to know where they stand. They're also not reactive guys; you know everything is going to be thought through."

And coming from a guy as steady and meticulous as Dom Capers, that's saying something.

Evero was defensive coordinator in Denver in 2022 and previously had stops with the Rams (2017-2021), Packers (2016), 49ers (2011-15) and Buccaneers (2007-09).

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