Led by sackmaster (and likely free agent) Charles Johnson and Pro Bowl 'backer Jon Beason, the Panthers ranked seventh last season in yards allowed per play (5.1). Unfortunately, the Panthers were on the field for far too many plays thanks to a historically inept offense.
One of Rivera's first priorities is to assemble an offensive staff that can develop the young talent on that side of the ball. It is likely he will reach back to his San Diego connections to make this hire, either with Rod Chudzinski (San Diego's tight ends coach and assistant head coach) or Ron Turner (former Chicago Bears offensive coordinator, current Indianapolis Colts receivers coach and Norv Turner's brother).
Ron Rivera (left)
Rivera will have competition for Wannstedt in the form of his former team. San Diego is looking at Wannstedt as a possible replacement for Rivera. The Chargers have an in with Wannstedt, as Wannstedt and Norv Turner worked together as coordinators for the Super Bowl-winning Dallas Cowboys in the early nineties.
The Chargers are also expected to speak with San Francisco 49ers defensive coordinator Greg Manusky, who served as the linebackers coach in San Diego from 2002 to 2006. In-house candidates John Pagano (linebackers) and Steve Wilks (DBs) will also get consideration.
Back in Carolina, Rivera has said he will stick with Carolina's 4-3 scheme. He used a 3-4 scheme in San Diego, but utilized a 4-3 during his three-year run as the Bears' defensive coordinator (2004 to 2006).
Rivera has a long history of bringing his former players with him from one job to the next, a trend likely to continue in Carolina. The Chargers have a few free agents Rivera may try to recruit, including LB Kevin Burnett and FS Eric Weddle.
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Michael Lombardo is a member of the Pro Football Writers of America and also a long-time contributor to the Scout.com network. His analysis has been published by the NFL Network, Fox Sports and MySpace Sports. You can see more of his updates by following him on Twitter.