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Dom Capers previews his role as senior defensive assistant

Dom Capers

CHARLOTTE – Dom Capers said he expects to have his hands full as the Panthers' senior defensive assistant.

Capers, who spoke to the media Wednesday for the first time since his return to Carolina, has been coaching for more than three decades years with tenures as an NFL head coach and defensive coordinator in his past. This season, the Panthers' original head coach will spend a second straight season in his current assistant role alongside defensive coordinator Ejiro Evero, as they held the same positions with the Broncos in 2022.

Evero characterized his relationship with Capers as a "friendship and collaboration," once working in quality control under the veteran coach at Green Bay in 2016 before reuniting in Denver last season. New head coach Frank Reich made it clear Capers wasn't a "sentimental hire" for the former coach from when he played quarterback at Carolina in 1995.

Capers sees himself slotting in as an advisor for Reich and Evero with the Panthers. 

"I've always believed this, that to be successful in any role, you've got to please the people you're working for," Capers said. "When you go into a new role, you kind of evaluate that role and ask yourself, 'How can I be the most help to, number one, Ejiro? How can I be the most help to Frank?' That's my goal." 

Specifically, Capers said he anticipates having a key role in preparing the Panthers' defense for opposing offenses. 

"Scouting the opponent for the defense, the tendencies, and those types of things, that'll be where a lot of my focus will be," Capers said. "In terms of looking at the upcoming opponent, presenting their tendencies." 

Evero views Capers' position as an all-encompassing advisory role. Evero said he doesn't view the group he coordinates as "his" defense but would instead describe it as a product of collaboration between himself, assistant coaches, and the players. 

He also mentioned Capers' influence on the defense, as he brings multiple years of NFL experience. 

"He does everything," Evero said. "He's somebody I can bounce ideas off. He's someone that gives ideas and input on the game plan. He helps us with a lot of our tendencies. And he does some motivational things with the team as well. So he's got his hands on a lot of things."

– Capers also said the new coaching staff had started the evaluation process of the current roster and that he expects to see Evero's new defensive scheme adapt to the skill sets present in the players already at Carolina. 

"You know what you want it to look like, but the initial phases you've got, I think it starts with 'Who are your best players? How can we get the best players on the field and utilize their abilities, adapt the scheme more to the players?" Capers said. "Then adapting the players to the scheme because I think you make a big mistake if you try to plug a square peg into a round hole. It's a process you go through, and we're just initially starting that process." 

Evero ran a 3-4 base defense in Denver and said he would adopt that with the Panthers. But as Reich noted in Tuesday's press conference, base defenses are utilized less than half the time, and Evero has remained open to evolving. 

"As we put our defense together, obviously there's going to be a framework from where we start off at, in terms of what we've done in the past at Denver," Evero said. "But at the end of the day, it's not like we're going to ever ask guys to do things they can't do well.

Evero complimented the young core the Panthers' defense assembled before he arrived, including Brian Burns, Derrick Brown, Jeremy Chinn, and Jaycee Horn. He mentioned that seeing how the roster is constructed following free agency will play a role in how he formulates the defense.

"That was one of the reasons that I wanted to be here in this organization," Evero said. "But it's always an evaluation process. And we'll see what happens with a lot of the guys that (have) statuses in question right now in terms of free agency. As we move forward and put this thing together, that's where we kind of figure those things out."

– Evero and Capers also discussed the Panthers' new defensive assistants. 

Regarding new assistant defensive backs coach and three-time Pro Bowl defensive back DeAngelo Hall, Evero said he didn't have a prior relationship with him, but he did hear glowing reviews from trusted contacts about him. 

Hall played safety and cornerback for 15 seasons with the Falcons, Raiders, and Redskins and will have his first coaching experience this season with the Panthers. 

"I think it's going to be invaluable," Evero said. "When you play at a high level like he did, when you are a smart football player that's actually done it, (he) comes in with instant credibility. Just my little interaction with him so far, he's just natural at teaching and understanding the game. He's definitely going to bring a lot to us." 

Evero does have history with defensive line coach Todd Wash, as the two started their NFL coaching careers working in defensive quality control at Tampa Bay in 2007. Wash spent the last two seasons coaching the Lions' defensive line and was defensive coordinator for the Jaguars for five years before that. 

"We haven't worked together in a long time, but we stayed up," Evero said. "He's been a coordinator. He's been a defensive line coach for a long time. You see his work from afar in terms of product on the field, and he's just a great teacher, extremely detailed. He's passionate. He connects with the players. It's definitely a great get for us."

Capers worked with linebackers coach Peter Hansen and secondary/safeties coach Bert Watts along with Evero in Denver last season, and he shared his thoughts about what they bring to the table as well. 

"Starting with Peter, he was with Ejiro with the 49ers, so he's been around the system for quite a while," Capers said. "I think he's a good teacher. I thought that his players really performed well this past year. 

"Bert Watts is a guy I spent a lot of time with in the meeting room, and (he) brings a lot of energy. I've always felt that within a staff, you have to have certain energy guys. Not everybody's the same. But I think Pete is a very good teacher; I think Bert's a good teacher – he's been a coordinator in college. They're both guys that relate well to the players."

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