If there was a chink in Panthers middle linebacker Luke Kuechlys armor during his Rookie of the Year season in 2012, it was his pass coverage.
Kuechly, particularly early in the season, bit hard on play fakes and gave up easy completions.
During training camp in Spartanburg, Kuechly pointed to his coverage skills as the area he most wanted to improve in his second season. The early results have been encouraging.
Through four games, Kuechly has matched his interceptions total from last season with a pair of picks, including one last week at Arizona on a read that Panthers coach Ron Rivera said was about as good as it gets.
Despite a pass interference penalty during Buffalos game-winning drive in Week 2, Kuechly said hes been pleased with his progress defending the pass.
The more you see routes, the more you see different quarterbacks and the way they release the ball, the more familiar you can be, Kuechly said Thursday. Our coaches do a great job each week of detailing formations, routes and how to play routes in different coverages.
Rivera said he thinks some of Kuechlys coverage issues were overblown last year, when the first-round pick from Boston College was learning the nuances of the pro game.
Now as hes learned the game not just seeing the game, but listening to the game I think hes really starting to make plays, Rivera said.
Photo bomb: Shortly after he posed for Miamis team photo Tuesday, Dolphins practice squad wideout Marvin McNutt learned the Panthers had signed him to their active roster. McNutt laughed when asked whether the Dolphins would black out his picture.
I dont know, Im in it, McNutt said. I was part of the team that day for part of the day.
McNutt, who took Armanti Edwards roster spot, is a big receiver with an impressive bio. The 6-foot-2, 216-pounder was moved from quarterback to receiver at Iowa and went on to become the schools career receiving leader with 2,861 yards and 28 touchdowns.
McNutt, a sixth-round pick by Philadelphia last year, was active for the Eagles last four games but did not catch any passes. He was waiting for his chance in Miami and smiling for the camera when the Panthers called.
McNutt, a high school teammate of Panthers center Brian Folkerts in St. Louis, considers himself a physical receiver. Im not afraid to put my head anywhere, and I want to come down and help out (blocking) where I can, he said.
Edwards update: Defensive tackle Dwan Edwards quick start last season gave the Panthers pass rush an early boost. But Edwards has been sidelined for three weeks this year with a hamstring injury that has hurt his quickness.
Edwards hasnt played since the Giants game in Week 3 and looks like hell be out again Sunday at Minnesota after missing the first two days of practice this week. The Panthers re-signed Edwards to a 2-year, $3.5 million deal after he recorded six sacks in 2012, the best total by a Panthers defensive tackle in 10 years.
But Panthers coach Ron Rivera said the hamstring injury has robbed Edwards of his quickness.
Thats probably his strength, and right now thats not here, Rivera said. Thats the thing hes really concerned with is not having that quick, first explosive step.
With Edwards out, veteran Colin Cole has started the past two games. Cole has been bothered by a shoulder injury this week, although Rivera expects him to practice Friday.
Bring the noise: The Panthers have been practicing with artificial noise blaring from speakers this week to get ready for the din of the Metrodome. The Vikings are leaving their dome after this season and playing two years at the University of Minnesotas stadium before moving into their new, indoor stadium in 2016.
Despite the Vikings 1-3 record, Rivera expects it to be noisy Sunday.
Believe me, its pretty loud. Its up a notch from most places, he said. The only one to me thats really close is Seattle.
Person: 704-358-5123; Twitter: @josephperson
The Charlotte Observer welcomes your comments on news of the day. The more voices engaged in conversation, the better for us all, but do keep it civil. Please refrain from profanity, obscenity, spam, name-calling or attacking others for their views.
Have a news tip? You can send it to a local news editor; email firstname.lastname@example.org to send us your tip - or - consider joining the Public Insight Network and become a source for The Charlotte Observer.Read moreRead less