Ron Rivera, Carolina Panthers adding more defensive options

SPARTANBURG, S.C. -- Carolina Panthers coach Ron Rivera learned a long time ago from defensive mentor Buddy Ryan that you'd better be able to adjust to what an offense throws at you.

That's why the Panthers are installing even more 3-4 wrinkles -- three linemen and four linebackers -- this season to go along with their regular base 4-3 scheme. Rivera likes the versatility it brings to a defense that finished 28th in the league in points allowed last season.

"It adds a little bit of doubt in people's minds," Rivera said. "You can start with a 4-3 base and move into things and create some situations for your opponents."

And, he hopes, create turnovers. Carolina managed just 24 takeaways last season.

The Panthers planned to use more 3-4 looks last year, but a lockout-shortened offseason and some devastating injuries forced them to be fairly vanilla on defense.

Defensive coordinator Sean McDermott said the Panthers have the personnel this year to effectively run the 3-4 "in certain situations."

Defensive end Charles Johnson, Carolina's highest-paid player, would see action as a pass-rushing outside linebacker in the 3-4 as he did a year ago.

"In the 3-4 you generally blitz a lot, so hopefully we can dial up a lot of blitzes and stuff out of that package," Johnson said.

The Panthers started off well in Sunday night's first training camp practice, coming up with four interceptions during 11-on-11 team drills against the offense.

Copyright 2012 by The Associated Press

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