CHARLOTTE – Jason Williams will take over at weak side linebacker for Thomas Davis this Sunday against the Jacksonville Jaguars, according to coach Ron Rivera.
In addition, linebacker Thomas Williams, who had an outstanding preseason with the team, will play in nickel packages alongside James Anderson.
“We’re anticipating if they run a lead (blocker), we’ll have a big guy coming downhill to meet the fullback,” Rivera said of the 6-foot-1, 244-pound Jason Williams. “That’s part of the reason behind that move.”
Jason Williams started two games late season for the Panthers and had 15 tackles, one forced fumble and one recovery prior to tearing his ACL.
When the Panthers trimmed their roster to 53 they kept eight linebackers which is a bit unusual for a team that plays a 4-3 defense. Jason Williams was the eighth linebacker.
In fact, he was inactive the last two games.
But this week he starts.
“He had played the 3-4 defense in Dallas and I’d watched a lot of tape of him,” Rivera said. “I watched the tape of him last year and there were some things I really liked about him. I has asked (general manager) Marty (Hurney) about him and we agreed this was a guy we really wanted to keep around. That’s why we kept eight linebackers. We felt once he was healthy and ready to go he might be a dynamic guy. He hasn’t had the reps we’d like, but at the same time we have to find out if he can play, which I believe he can.”
Jason Williams missed most of training camp while recovering from knee surgery and didn’t play until the third preseason game.
It’s unclear what role Charlotte native Omar Gaither will play in Carolina’s defense, but it appears he’ll remain a backup.
GABBERT TO START: Blaine Gabbert, whom the Panthers considered taking with the No. 1 overall pick in the draft, will make his first start for Jacksonville on Sunday at Bank of America Stadium.
Cam Newton said he knows Gabbert pretty well from going through the NFL draft process.
“There was just something else that attracted us to Cam,” Rivera said. “It’s hard to explain. I don’t want to say the other kid (Gabbert) doesn’t have the ‘it factor’ but there was something about Cam that I haven’t seen in a lot of guys… There’s something about him that strikes you.”
SAFETY VALVE: The Panthers held Charles Godfrey out of practice Wednesday because of a head injury he sustained against Green Bay. Godfrey briefly left that game but surprisingly did return after taking a shot to the head.
“He came in (this week) and was a little lightheaded,” Rivera said. “Once we get into that situation we go through the treatment.”
Rivera said Jordan Pugh will start if Godfrey can’t play Sunday. It’s unclear at this point if cornerback Darius Butler would come in on nickel packages or if backup safety Sean Considine would get the call if Godfrey is unavailable.
OTAH BACK TO WORK: Meanwhile, Jeff Otah was cleared to practice Wednesday and will start against the Jaguars after missing last week’s game with a concussion.
Rivera said Otah looked great in practice.
“It’s the right thing to do,” Rivera said of resting guys after they’ve had a concussion. “You don’t want to put a guy out there right away and have him get another one. It is most certainly a different era than when I played and for good reason.
“What we’re starting to find out from that generation of guys is the protocol needs be a little more and that’s what’s happening, so hats off the league and the Players Association. It’s a serious situation and I’m glad we’re able to take care of these guys.”
FEELING LUSCIOUS: Newton might have had the most surprising quote of the day Wednesday when he was asked about how his ankle felt after twisting it this past Sunday.
“It’s feeling luscious,” Newton replied with a laugh.
Newton participated fully in practice.
MAKING THE MISTAKES: Newton said that while Green Bay’s defense has a solid reputation, he didn’t think they did anything to confuse the Panthers last week.
“Don’t get me wrong, that was an excellent defense,” Newton said. “Don’t get it twisted, there were a lot of adjustments being made but we knew what they were doing. It was just that we made mistakes. Whether they made adjustments or not, I look at it as we missed out on our opportunities and they capitalized on our mistakes. That’s what great defenses do. The next time we’re in that situation hopefully we will do better.”
Newton threw for 432 yards last week, but was upset over his three interceptions.
ROSTER MOVES: The Panthers added a big body guy in rookie nose tackle Frank Kearse on Tuesday and he could step in and help right away. Kearse was signed of Miami’s practice squad.
“He’s a big guy and I like big noses,” Rivera said. “That’s what we have with Sione (Fua) and what we had in Ron Edwards (before he got hurt). It’s going to help our young linebackers and give them an opportunity. You’d like to have a big guy to clog up the middle and even more so this week against a team that runs the ball very well.”