SPARTANBURG Luke Kuechly has impressed the coaching staff and his teammates since being drafted by the Panthers in the first round this year, but that doesnt buy him a spot at the top of the Panthers depth chart.
Released Tuesday, the depth chart for Saturdays preseason game against the Houston Texans lists eight-year veteran Thomas Davis ahead of Kuechly at the weakside linebacker position despite the fact that Davis has yet to practice in pads with the team this training camp.
Head coach Ron Rivera did the same thing last year with Cam Newton. Though the quarterback was the No. 1 overall pick, Newton did not start the first preseason game in 2011.
Davis, who has had three procedures on his right knee over the years, strained his right calf early in camp and has been rehabbing during practices. Rivera has said he does not plan to rush Davis back into the lineup, especially in the preseason.
The coach reinforced Derek Anderson as his No. 2 quarterback, but he could not say yet what the rotation would be for Saturdays game.
Well talk about what the reps will be, but it will probably be similar to what we did last year, Rivera said. Well get that first group in and try to get somewhere before 12-15 plays and move on to the young guys.
Smith sidelined: Wide receiver Steve Smith sat out most of practice with a bruised left knee suffered on a pass break-up. As long as theres no swelling, Rivera said, Smith would be back to practice Wednesday.
He landed on a guy hard, got a little contusion on that, Rivera said. So rather than let it go out and get swollen, we put ice on it right away and they decided to shut him down.
Also sitting out Tuesday were guard Mike Pollak (shoulder) and guard Geoff Hangartner (day off). Rivera said tackle Jordan Gross, and potentially defensive end Charles Johnson, will get the day off Wednesday.
Williams absence: Running back DeAngelo Williams was not at practice Tuesday after he flew out Monday night to attend a funeral with his mother. Rivera excused Williams from practice for the day and said he would be back Tuesday night and practice Wednesday.
Schedule change: The threat of evening rain prompted the Panthers to go to a morning practice Tuesday. Rivera liked it so much, the Panthers are sticking with it for most of the remainder of camp.
Like the Saints, who moved to a morning schedule after a couple of evening washouts, the Panthers will practice from 10:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. Wednesday and Thursday, as well as Aug. 14 and 15, the day they break camp.
Afternoon sessions are still scheduled for Friday and Monday.
• Josh Thomas, a second-year corner, took advantage of the continued absences of Josh Norman (hamstring) and Brandon Hogan (knee). Thomas made a couple of nice break-ups, including one on a deep pass to Smith early in practice.
Seyi Ajirotutu let his actions do the talking when going up against Thomas. The third-year wide receiver hauled in a touchdown over Thomas, who attempted to strip away the secured ball. With Thomas on the ground, the receiver dropped the ball on Thomas head and jogged back to the huddle.
• Tight end Gary Barnidge made several catches in the red zone, but still needs to improve his blocking to solidify the No. 2 spot behind Greg Olsen. Barnidge had a wrap on his right thumb after practice.
• Players seemed to be hitting harder on Monday than before. Though theyre in pads, the Panthers arent taking their teammates to the ground. But there were plenty of clashes that made a pop that hadnt been heard in days.
• In what looked like a replay of his interception during Fan Fest, Kuechly dropped into coverage and stretched out to pick off Newton during a red-zone drill. Newton overthrew Barnidge on the play.
• After Monday mornings practice, receiver Louis Murphy stayed on the field and took passes from Newton. Murphy is competing for the No. 3 position and struggled last week with drops, but has seemed to turn it around since Saturday.
• Rivera seems to take great pride in trying to embarrass staff members at the post-practice huddle. Rivera on Tuesday called up offensive quality control coach Scott Turner and had the team serenade the 30-year-old son of Chargers coach Norv Turner with an off-key rendition of "Happy Birthday."
• Fewer than 500 tickets remain for Saturdays exhibition opener against Houston.
Three questions with
Q: Hows camp going for some of the younger guys?
This rookie (linebacker) Luke (Kuechly) comes in and hes looking good. He seems like he gets an interception every day. He can cover.
Q: Are you feeling those young corners breathing down your neck?
Nah. I like competition. Theyre making some plays out there, but you know me, when they make a play I have to make a play. They might be coming for my job, but Im coming for Chris Gambles job. I want to be the No. 1 corner.
Q: Ive noticed you wear snapbacks (hats) during walk-throughs in the mornings. How many of those do you own and why do you prefer them?
Whooo. Probably 50-75. And probably about eight or nine Panthers hats. I have all different kinds and brought about five to training camp. I just like the snapback better. They fit my head kind of nice so not trying to be different or nothing, I just like the snapback.
Getting to know
DT Ogemdi Nwagbuo
Height: 6-4 Weight: 310
College: Michigan State
NFL experience: Nwagbuo signed with the New York Giants as an undrafted free agent in 2008 and played his first NFL game in 2009 with San Diego, starting in five games that season. He signed with Carolina after being waived by the Chargers last season and played in the Panthers final four games.
The scoop: Hes listed at third on the depth chart behind starter Terrell McClain and Andre Neblett, who had flashes of strong play on Tuesday.
Bet you didnt know: Nwagbuos first name means my time will come in Nigerian. He also has a birthday on Christmas Eve.