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Notes: Ron Edwards to IR


CHARLOTTE – The Panthers will be without space-eating defensive tackle Ron Edwards for the remainder of the season after he dislocated his left elbow in Monday's victory over the Philadelphia Eagles.

Running back Jonathan Stewart suffered the only other significant injury – a high ankle sprain. Head coach Ron Rivera said he'll be day-to-day.

Edwards has been placed on injured reserve. Rivera said the injury would require a four- to six-week recovery.

"Ron's been very stout for us at the point of attack," Rivera said. "He was doing a nice job allowing those linebackers to run."

With Edwards holding the point of attack, rookie middle linebacker Luke Kuechly leads the team in tackles. Prior to Monday night, Edwards helped the run defense allow 27.3 yards per game less in its last six games compared to the first four games of the season.

Added defensive coordinator Sean McDermott: "That'll be tough. With what Ron came into the season with in terms of some bumps and some bruises, we are happy to have gotten this far with him. He's done a great job for us. The next guy has to step in and step up, whether it's Sione (Fua), Andre (Neblett), and I know Coach has mentioned bringing Frank (Kearse) up (from the practice squad)."

Rivera hopes to see one of the young defensive tackles emerge in Edwards' absence.

"One of those guys really has to step up and fill that role of being a space eater," Rivera said.

GOOD DECISIONS: Quarterback Cam Newton has fewer decisions to make in the running game than he did earlier in the season, but above all, he's making better decisions in all areas.

"People are throwing a lot of things at him, throwing things that have worked against him at him, and he's learning to understand them," Rivera said the day after Newton torched the Eagles for 358 total yards and four touchdowns. "He's got a long way to go – he knows it and we know it – and it's a growing process.

"A game like yesterday against a team that does as much as they do – the fronts, the looks, the stunts, the coverages, the shifts – it was a tough game. But he made a lot of good decisions because he's growing as a quarterback."

Newton is beginning to change plays at the line of scrimmage more often, and he's beginning to master some of the subtleties that more seasoned quarterbacks use to their advantage. On the crucial touchdown drive that gave Carolina a 30-22 lead with less than five minutes to play, the Eagles jumped offside on three consecutive plays.

Rivera gave Newton credit for two of them with the use of his cadence.

"Cam really has gotten much better at using that as a weapon, and it couldn't have come at a better time," Rivera said. "He's learning and growing into the position, and that's all a part of it – everything from snap count to voice inflection to making reads and checks.

"He's seeing things better and better. I think he's right where you want second-year quarterbacks to be."

KICKING THEMSELVES: The Panthers' final touchdown appeared to put the game away, but the outcome was put in peril when recently signed kicker Graham Gano missed the extra point that would have made it a two-score game.

"It was more mechanical than anything else," Rivera said after reviewing the tape. "He over-strided. His plant leg was ahead of the ball, which caused him to come down on the ball. He actually caught the grass first and just pushed it to the right."

Gano was as surprised as anyone.

"I've never missed one in my life – practice, games," said Gano, who had two PATs blocked in 61 attempts with the Washington Redskins. "I just missed it. You can't make excuses for something like that.

"As a veteran, I just had to move onto the next kick, so I kicked off and we were able to get the ball back."


LINE ITEM: Since signing veteran Jeremy Bridges on Nov. 14, the Panthers have been in debate mode whether to use Bridges, Jeff Byers or Garry Williams at right guard.

The answer might be all of the above.

"We like what we got from Garry, and when we put Jeremy in, you could see what that big body can do," Rivera said. "We also put Byers in for a play, and he did a nice job when he was in.

"We feel comfortable with those three guys. Who knows? We might have to platoon, but we're pretty happy with what we got from all three of those guys."

Williams started at right guard for the second time this season against the Eagles, and Bridges saw his first action. Byers had started the previous four games at right guard after Byron Bell made one start at the position when Geoff Hangartner moved to center following a season-ending injury to Pro Bowler Ryan Kalil.

"Jeremy is still working through the conditioning part of it, trying to get back in football shape after his thumb injury," Rivera said. "We most certainly like what we got from him in the run game. He's still got to work on his feet in pass protection. Garry did some nice things with pass protection."

Staff writer Max Henson and senior writer Bryan Strickland contributed to this report.

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