There are no gold stars or trophies given out at the end of the Carolina Panthers’ minicamp, but if Ron Rivera had a most improved receiver award, it’d go to Armanti Edwards.
The former Appalachian State quarterback and third-round draft pick from 2010 made an impression on his coaches during spring workouts as he tries to position himself to make the final 53-man roster come late August.
“Probably the guy who’s really improved the most during these OTAs and minicamp has been Armanti,” Rivera said Thursday after the final session of mandatory minicamp. “He made a couple really nice plays, I know you guys saw today he made a couple big catches. His development has been really key for us as well.”
Edwards made at least one “really nice play” in each of three days during minicamp. On Thursday, he plucked a Cam Newton pass out of the air, in traffic, going across the middle of the field.
After zero receiving yards on zero catches his first two seasons, Edwards had five grabs for 121 yards last year, including an 82-yard pass and catch against the Redskins.
Rivera reiterated Thursday that he’ll learn more about the team come late July when the Panthers, in full pads, report to Spartanburg for training camp.
The Panthers are likely to keep six receivers on the final 53-man roster, and for the past two preseasons there have been breath-holding moments on whether Edwards would make the cut in late August.
Veteran Steve Smith and Brandon LaFell will enter training camp as locks for the No. 1 and 2 receiving roles. Newcomers Ted Ginn Jr. and Domenik Hixon are expected to vie for the No. 3 role after the Panthers decided against re-signing Louis Murphy after last season.
With that quartet being the top four, that leaves two, possibly three, open receiving spots for Edwards, Kealoha Pilares, Joe Adams and David Gettis. All four of those players spent time on the active roster last season.
Godfrey impressed: Despite uncertainty at three of the four positions in the defensive backfield, free safety Charles Godfrey said this Carolina secondary is further along at this point in the offseason than any other he’s played with.
“I’ve never been a part of a secondary here with the Panthers like I’ve seen now and like I’m a part of now,” Godfrey said.
“When I say that, I’m saying as far as us making plays on the ball, breaking on the ball, challenging receivers, getting close, making interceptions at this time, as far as OTAs. That’s a good sign.”
Rivera has said the only position in the secondary that’s a lock is Godfrey after he was moved from strong to free safety toward the end of the year.
That means the top cornerback role is up for grabs after nine-year corner Chris Gamble retired after being cut by the team this winter. Godfrey had played beside Gamble his entire five-year career at Carolina and admitted it’s odd to not see his old teammate on the practice field.
“Every once in a while it pops up in my head and I’m like, man, it’s kind of weird even walking out here and not seeing Chris,” Godfrey said. “That was a decision that he made and he knows his better than anybody. But it goes on. We move on. We got a couple guys to fill his place but they’re doing pretty good.”
Lotulelei improves: Panthers general manager Dave Gettleman wasted little time when he saw the team could get defensive tackle Star Lotelelei with the No. 13 overall pick in April.
But both he and Rivera knew the Utah product would have to work on his pass-blocking abilities in order to be the best nose tackle he could be. And so far, Rivera likes the improvement he’s seen.
“Star’s done a nice job in terms of his block protection,” Rivera said. “Coming off and playing with his hands is probably the biggest thing that he needs to use,. Use his hands, use his great athletic ability to make plays. That’s been great so I’m excited about that.”
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