On how Kelvin Benjamin's trade impacts preparation this week:"When we read that last night, he's one of the guys you look at from a matchup standpoint – the size and the length. The one thing I've regarded with him is the catching radius. If it's up high or outside, he can go and aggressively get it. They're certainly equipped to play without him in the lineup, having done it for an entire year before. From a scheme standpoint, it doesn't necessarily change how we prepare. Just knowing it's a different factor – how they utilized him and how they'll utilize the other guys. That was my initial thought – how does that change how they play. I was reminded they did that before."
On Devin Funchess and Curtis Samuel:"I love Funchess' catching radius. He's another big guy that can get in and out of breaks. That's not always the case with big guys, but he's a really detailed and really good route runner. He's got aggressive hands to go make the catch. And then Curtis is somebody in the draft that we thought really highly of because of his versatility to catch, run and return. Having a player with that kind of speed certainly helps. For years I've been impressed with Coach (Mike) Shula and how he features the guys he has. Now again, you see a running back with nearly 50 catches at the halfway point. It is one of the fun parts of coaching in the NFL – how do you find what guys do best and how to feature them as opposed to what they can't do."
On the growth of the Panthers' young cornerbacks:"We had some rookies playing last year and young players. We had them at linebacker and safety. I think any young player can appreciate some on-the-job training. What I've seen from them this year, and I think the one game was just an anomaly that took place, but what I see from them is length and strength. I love having those big guys up on the line of scrimmage. They like to play close to the guys and make it hard to release. I have respect for what they do, and you can see their size and wanting to go in and tackle."
On how important this game is in NFC South:"Our division, I just love the competitiveness of it. Not only are their four really good quarterbacks, but scheme-wise there's some familiarity. The coaches from last year to this year, a lot of that is similar, and the players certainly know each other well. The team that plays well in the NFC South will be pretty equipped to play well because they'll have been battle tested in a strong, aggressive division. We're excited because here we are in November and haven't played a division game yet. We're pumped to just get that part of our schedule underway. We love what the division stands for and the matchups, and how hard you have to battle for it."
On being hunted and the reigning NFC champions:"When you play well, people do take their best shot. It shouldn't change how you prepare, but I will say that part you can recognize. That's a valid question and easier to discuss than any hangover talk because when you get somebody's best shot, you better be ready to deal with that. If you're able to deal with it over the long haul, that means you got some mental toughness and some resiliency and you're not going to play as up and down. Our team certainly hasn't played as well as I think we're capable of, but I do think like most years, you do improve as you keep going. The best teams I've been a part of got better as the season went on, and I'm excited to see where our team can go to from an improvement standpoint."
LAST TIME THEY PLAYED
View the top photos from Panthers vs. Falcons by team photographer Melissa Melvin-Rodriguez.