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Carolina Panthers | 2 Defensive coaches fired, other moves

The Carolina Panthers have made changes to their coaching staff amid a four-game losing streak, demoting defensive coordinator Eric Washington and firing defensive line coach Brady Hoke and assistant secondary/cornerbacks coach Jeff Imamura.

The team announced Monday morning head coach Ron Rivera will handle defensive playcalling duties, while Washington, in his first season as defensive coordinator, oversees the defensive front seven.

Washington will retain the defensive coordinator title, and Rivera said on Monday that he will continue to collaborate with Washington on each week’s defensive game plan.

Rivera said he helped with the defensive playcalling during Carolina’s 24-17 loss Sunday to Tampa Bay and that he felt these moves were necessary as the team tries to end its four-game skid.

The Panthers, who started the season 6-2, have fallen to 6-6. Carolina’s total defense ranks No. 14 in the league and has given up 126 points in the past four games.

“In my judgment, I felt this was best for the team moving forward,” Rivera said in the release. “These are always difficult decisions, and I thank Brady and Jeff for their hard work. Ultimately, I’m charged with putting the team in the best position to succeed, and I felt these moves were necessary in order to do that.”

The Panthers’ secondary has given up 12 passing plays of 20-plus yards in the past four games, for a total of 468 yards on those plays.

Sam Mills III will take over for Hoke as the defensive line coach, though will split those duties with Washington. Rivera and Richard Rodgers will lead the the secondary.

The moves came after a Monday morning meeting between Rivera, general manager Marty Hurney and first-year team owner David Tepper.

Rivera, in his normal Monday media availability, described the meeting as “very good” and said that while Tepper had input on the moves, he didn’t influence them. Rather, it was a collaboration.

Rivera, a former NFL linebacker with the Chicago Bears, was the defensive coordinator in San Diego before the Panthers hired him in 2011.

“You know, I have a bit of experience, at play-calling, at putting defenses together,” Rivera reminded reporters during his news conference. “I think it’s an opportunity to work even closer with (Eric), to help him out as we go forward.”

As Carolina’s longtime defensive line coach before being promoted this season, Washington has a track record within the organization speaks for itself, Rivera said.

Rivera said he expects Washington, who the team said would not be made available on Monday, to handle his adjusted duties with grace.

“Eric’s a professional,” he said. “He’s been doing this a long time.”

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