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Carolina Panthers

Notebook: Ejiro Evero focused on limiting explosive plays at Miami

Ejiro Evero

CHARLOTTE – Defensive coordinator Ejiro Evero has a heavy lift when it comes to preparing the Panthers' defense for what they're facing in Miami this Sunday.

The offensive centerpieces, Tua Tagovailoa, Tyreek Hill, Jaylen Waddle, and Raheem Mostert, have gashed opposing teams en route to a 4-1 record through the first five weeks. Even without rising star rookie running back De'Von Achane (on injured reserve with a knee issue), there's a lot for Carolina to consider.

"They're definitely dynamic," Evero said. "A lot of speed; Hill, Waddle, the backs – they've got a lot of explosive players. I think (head coach) Mike McDaniel is as good of an offensive coach as there is in the league. And you saw that effect he had when he was with the Niners. Obviously, he's bringing it over to Miami. They've done a great job with their design, and not just him, his entire staff. So yes, they're tough to deal with. And it's going to be a great challenge."

Miami's offense is about as statistically dominant as one can be, particularly through the air. The Dolphins lead the league in points (181), total yards (2,568), first downs (124), passing yards (1,639), rushing yards (929), and rushing touchdowns (12).

They also have the NFL's most productive receiver, Hill, who has put up 651 receiving yards and five touchdowns, to catch passes from quarterback Tagovailoa, whose 1,614 passing yards are the most in Dolphins history through the first five games. (For context, Dan Marino used to play there.)

So it's a lot to plan for.

"We've got to play with good fundamentals," Evero said. "We've got to leverage the ball, understand where our help is, understand where our issues are in coverage. It's a big awareness game, a big leverage game; we've got to go play fast." 

Carolina's defense has allowed 185.0 passing yards per game, which is fifth in the NFL, but Miami's averaging 327.8 passing yards per game, which ranks atop the league.

The Panthers gave up 236 passing yards to Lions quarterback Jared Goff in Week 5, and that was without Amon-Ra St. Brown, Detroit's leading receiver.

Evero said he doesn't see that performance as a concern, but he does see it as an emphasis point to get fixed.

"I think (on) a lot of the plays that happened last week, the Lions did a good job," Evero said. "And we weren't ready to go from a coaching and a player standpoint. But I think a lot of what happened could be controlled, could be executed better. And it's not one of those deals where like, 'Oh man, we have no chance.' I think we can fix those issues."

– Offensive coordinator Thomas Brown said he learned about the Panthers' resilience and determination on offense in their Week 5 loss at Detroit, but there's still plenty of room for improvements, too.

"What I learned is we have a resilient football team that has no quit, continues to fight," Brown said. "I also learned that we've got to do a better job across the board – when it comes to coaches and players, of continuing to find ways to get more clarity, to demand more from a detail standpoint, and cut down on the self-inflicted wounds.

"We talked about the turnovers and penalties; there was a lot of progress when it comes to being a lot more efficient in the run game and getting that going, which is part of who we want to be identity-wise, (and) also made progress when it comes to third down." 

The Panthers were buried by a 28-7 deficit late in the second quarter behind three first-half turnovers that turned into 21 points for the Lions' offense. Eddy Piñeiro kicked a 33-yard field goal just before halftime, bringing it to 28-10. 

The Panthers scored two more touchdowns but couldn't hold off more Detroit points as they fell 42-24. The offense also committed six pre-snap penalties that pushed them back. 

Still, Brown took some good with the bad, including 342 total yards, 99 rushing yards, and three touchdowns for rookie quarterback Bryce Young. 

"(There are) steps in the right direction, but one of the things I've mentioned to the entire group Monday was not confusing movement with progress," Brown said. "That we are making some strides but still not good enough. Haven't found a way to be able to win football games, so trying to string together, when it comes to us being more consistent day in and day out from an operation standpoint, to give us those results."

– Special teams coordinator Chris Tabor said he saw a "look" in DJ Johnson's eyes when the rookie outside linebacker played on special teams at Detroit. 

Tabor deemed it a turning point in Johnson's growth and improvement.

"He showed a lot of physicality last week playing Detroit," Tabor said. "I know I talked a lot about Detroit's ore, and they were very physically, really good. But he did really well on kick return, just playing physical, getting in the doubles, and just finishing blocks." 

Johnson played 12 special teams snaps (44 percent) and 11 defensive snaps (18 percent) against the Lions, and Tabor said he left impressed with what he showed.

"The last few weeks, he's played well," Tabor said. "He's playing physical. And the thing that I really like about DJ – I think we're trying to play him in spots that kind of translate into his outside linebacking world. And he's accepted that and is really taking a lot of pride in that. So hopefully, he just kind of keeps getting better each week."

View photos from the Panthers' practice on Thursday.

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