Panthers fire defensive assistants Hoke, Imamura

Carolina Panthers head coach Ron Rivera, shown here on Sunday, saw some shuffling among the team's defensive coach ranks on Monday.Photo Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

The Panthers have made changes to their coaching staff in the wake of sustaining their fourth consecutive loss.

The Panthers relieved defensive line coach Brady Hoke and assistant secondary/cornerbacks coach Jeff Imamura of their duties, the team announced Monday.

The dismissals come one day after the Panthers (6-6) dropped a 24-17 loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

Head coach Ron Rivera will handle play-calling duties with the defense as well as work with Richard Rodgers in the secondary.

First-year defensive coordinator Eric Washington will oversee the front seven while Sam Mills III will lead the defensive line, the team said.

“Eric is a professional,” Rivera said on Monday. “He’s done this for a long time. His track record speaks for itself, especially dealing with the front seven, especially the front four.

“I have a bit of experience at play calling and putting defenses together. It’s an opportunity for me to work even closer with him to help him out as we go forward. Y’all got to remember your first time doing something. You weren’t perfect and somebody had to help you. That’s really what I’m here for.’

Rivera served as the defensive coordinator with the Chicago Bears (2004-06) and again at San Diego before being named Carolina’s head coach in 2011.

Hoke, a former Michigan head coach, was hired in January and worked in the NFL for the first time after spending 34 years in the collegiate ranks. He replaced Washington, who was promoted to defensive coordinator after Steve Wilks was named the Arizona Cardinals head coach.

Hoke was the defensive line coach at Tennessee during the 2017 season, and served as the Volunteers’ interim head coach after Butch Jones was fired on Nov. 12. He was the head coach at Michigan from 2011-2014, and served as head coach at San Diego State from 2009-2010.

Imamura joined the Panthers in 2017 after spending the previous two seasons as the Los Angeles Rams’ defensive assistant/quality control coach, focusing on the linebackers.

“In my judgment, I felt this was best for the team moving forward,” Rivera said in a statement. “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.”

–RB Christian McCaffrey recorded 55 receiving yards on nine catches on Sunday to surpass his franchise record for receiving yards by a running back in a single season (651), which he set in 2017. He now has 663 receiving yards in 2018.

–TE Greg Olsen said he ruptured the plantar fascia in his right foot in the first quarter on Sunday. He did not return to the contest.

–QB Cam Newton tossed four interceptions in a game for the second time in his career on Sunday. He also was picked off four times in a game during his rookie season.

–WR DJ Moore played 94 percent of the snaps on Sunday after he had a season-high 92 percent last week against the Seattle Seahawks.

–CB Donte Jackson played all but one snap on Sunday just a week after missing nearly the entire game versus the Seattle Seahawks with a quad injury.

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