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Source: Panthers locked in on defensive coordinator as other job searches unfold

Carolina Panthers defensive coordinator Eric Washington, left, and head coach Ron Rivera (right) will be working together again in 2019.
Carolina Panthers defensive coordinator Eric Washington, left, and head coach Ron Rivera (right) will be working together again in 2019. dtfoster@charlotteobserver.com

The Carolina Panthers are honing in on a new secondary/cornerbacks coach, and had two promising candidates in for interviews this week, a league source told the Observer on Thursday.

Former Indianapolis Colts head coach Chuck Pagano interviewed with the Panthers on Thursday, and former Jacksonville Jaguars defensive backs coach/Buffalo Bills defensive coordinator Perry Fewell interviewed on Wednesday.

These jobs would not be for the role of defensive coordinator. A league source said that Eric Washington will retain his position and title as defensive coordinator.

However, the Observer reported earlier this week that head coach Ron Rivera will continue to call defensive plays in 2019. The Panthers played the final four games of the season with Washington as defensive coordinator and “front seven” coach, and Rivera calling defensive plays.

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Washington coached the Panthers’ defensive line for seven seasons before being promoted last winter, as the third new defensive coordinator in Carolina in three seasons.

Pagano and Fewell’s extensive background as defensive backs coaches make either of them ideal candidates for the cornerbacks and secondary coach position.

Fewell, 56 and a Cramerton, N.C. native, has coached defensive backs in the NFL since 1998, for six teams. Pagano, 58, was a secondary/defensive backs coach in the NFL since 2001 before coaching the Colts from 2012-17.

The Panthers have more time this offseason to find a secondary coach, after former assistant Curtis Fuller resigned from the position last May amid a workplace misconduct investigation.

Without the time to conduct a full coaching search, and with desirable candidates already in other roles, Rivera promoted in-house for the position.

But assistant defensive backs/cornerbacks/nickels coach Jeff Imamura was fired in Week 14, along with first-year defensive line coach Brady Hoke. That week, Rivera also took over defensive play-calling duties.

Elsewhere on staff, a league source told the Observer that receivers coach Lance Taylor will not be returning in 2019. Taylor was hired in 2017 after serving as Stanford’s running backs coach for three seasons.

Multiple reports cite Pagano as a candidate for other defensive coordinator and assistant jobs around the league, including the Browns and the Arizona Cardinals.

Jourdan Rodrigue: 704-358-5071, @JourdanRodrigue

Jourdan has covered the Carolina Panthers as a beat writer since 2016, and froze during Pennsylvania winters as an award-winning Penn State football beat writer before that. A 2014 graduate of the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism, she’s on a never-ending quest for trick plays and the stories that give football fans goosebumps.

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