Theres been some insider trading going on this week at Bank of America Stadium, where Carolina Panthers strong safety Quintin Mikell has been as popular as the person in payroll who cuts the checks.
Teammates have been speaking to Mikell at practice and quizzing him during film sessions about the St. Louis Rams, the Panthers opponent Sunday and Mikells former team.
I know a lot of people have talked to Quintin, a veteran guy who can give you a lot more insight than the average guy, Panthers coach Ron Rivera said. I feel pretty confident that were getting some good intel.
Mikell insists the intelligence doesnt rise to the level of that provided by former Giants Chase Blackburn and Domenik Hixon in the days preceding the Panthers 38-0 shutout of New York in Week 3. Defensive players were calling out some of the Giants plays before the snap, thanks to what they gleaned from Hixon and Blackburn.
I know a little bit, said Mikell, an 11-year veteran who played the past two seasons in St. Louis.
Im a little more comfortable just from going against those guys in practice all the time. But in terms of knowing their schemes and their calls, I wasnt in their (offensive) meetings. So I dont know a whole lot, Mikell added. And on defense they have a new scheme. Im a little bit of a help, but its more of comfortability with knowing those guys.
Mikell knows and respects Rams quarterback Sam Bradford, the No. 1 overall pick in 2010 who led St. Louis to a 20-10 victory against Carolina as a rookie.
Hes actually one of the reasons I signed there over other teams, because I always believed hes a very good quarterback, Mikell said. Hes got a strong arm, accurate, good size. Hes more athletic than people give him credit for. Hes a guy when he gets hot, he can hurt you. And hes got some weapons now.
That being said, we have a really good defense and weve got guys who can match up with anybody.
Panthers free safety Mike Mitchell said Mikell gave him a few tips about Bradfords tendencies when they watched tape of the Rams offense.
Hes just really helped me a lot with the quarterback progressions, what to look at. Does he pass the ball when he reaches his drop? Just mannerisms that a quarterback will do that will give you a tip on where hes throwing, Mitchell said. Because if you can go before he throws it, youve got a heck of a break on the ball. Thats a chance to make a play.
Mikell returned to the starting lineup last week at Minnesota after missing two games with an ankle injury. Mikells ankle was not completely healed, but he stepped in for rookie safety Robert Lester, who was out with a hamstring issue.
Mikell finished with five stops against the Vikings. But he also had a couple of miscues, including a missed tackle on the Vikings lone touchdown Kyle Rudolphs 23-yard reception in the final minute.
You look at the tape, thats not really indicative of the way I play ball, Mikell said. Hopefully, this week I dont have any more setbacks and I can get out there and play.
With Mikell and Lester both back at practice, Rivera said the two would share reps against the Rams. Lester, who was undrafted out of Alabama, has been a pleasant surprise, with an interception in each of his first two starts.
Lester and Mikell said theyre fine with the platoon.
Its not about how many reps you get. Its about what you do when you get those reps, Lester said. If I was to play one play in the game, Im going to want it to be a pick-six for a touchdown.
Im here to help in any way possible. I told Robert that. Im not here to take his spot or take anyones spot, Mikell said. If Im in the game, Im going to give it my best and play as hard as I can. I told him, If youre in there, you ball out. If Im in there, Im going to ball out. And let the coaches make the decision.
I played, started and did all that stuff. Im just here to help.
Before he even takes the field Sunday, Mikell will have helped out a lot already.
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