23 observations from Friday’s Carolina Panthers training camp practice at Wofford College.
▪ The Panthers were in full pads for the first time. Giddyup.
▪ During a little pre-practice clangin’ between some big bodies, Newton pretended he was gonna go, even got into a three-point stance. He got razzed a little.
▪ Tight end Greg Olsen was called into a pre-practice “Oklahoma” one-on-on hit drill against defensive end Julius Peppers, but joked that his helmet strap was broken and got out of it.
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▪ Former Bucs receiver Russell Shepard sounded like he was reminding Thomas Davis about what happened on Jan. 1, the last time both had full pads on.
▪ Captain Munnerlyn still not practicing with that hamstring injury, and rookie Curtis Samuel also didn’t practice. Defensive tackle Toby Johnson was also limited.
▪ Rookie safety Corn Elder missed his second practice, and had on a knee brace. He said in the spring he sometimes struggles with tendinitis in his knees.
▪ Defensive back Teddy Williams had a bad drop in a defensive backs drill, reminding us why he is mostly a special-teamer.
▪ Receiver Kelvin Benjamin struggled with two bad unassisted drops on short routes. A pass from Newton also went over Benjamin’s head, and it appeared to be a combination of an overthrow and a lack of speed through the end of the route. Benjamin did make a catch on a mid-range slant near the end of practice.
▪ One one play, former Charlotte 49ers receiver Austin Duke juked out Jeff Richards. “He’s gonna do that all camp!” Cam Newton yelled. Later, with Richards matched up against Duke again, Richards did a much better job.
▪ Benjamin can’t hang on in one on ones against Bradberry. Tight coverage. Kelvin can’t catch up to a Cam pass.
▪ Pass blocking can be problematic for NFL rookies, and that was on display when Jeremy Cash got past No. 8 overall pick Christian McCaffrey with a swim move in one-on-ones.
▪ There was a big collision going for the ball between defensive back L.J. McCray and Damiere Byrd. Byrd got up, but McCray stayed down longer before walking gingerly off the field with trainers.
▪ Byrd, showing no ill effects from the collision, made another catch a short time later. Friday, he had a bunch of them.
▪ Former Panthers assistant Dave Magazu was at practice. Fired in Chicago in January, he lives in the Hilton Head Island, S.C., area. Good guy.
▪ Newton and Russell Shepard have connected a number of times in the first three days of practice and seem to be developing a solid rapport. Like Ted Ginn Jr., the former owner of Panthers jersey number 19, Shepard is adept at using his speed to get open.
▪ The Panthers’ first morning practice – combined with overcast skies and full pads – made for a large crowd of a couple of thousand fans and an energetic vibe led in decibel level by, of course, Newton.
▪ Second-string quarterback Derek Anderson – about as pure a pocket passer as you will find – took a shotgun snap and ran a quarterback draw to the delight and derision of his teammates.
▪ The offensive line posted a good session overall in one-on-ones, with left tackle Matt Kalil setting the tone against Mario Addison. Kalil also did a nice job with contact against Wes Horton and Vernon Butler.
▪ Cornerback James Bradberry had a cast back on the left wrist he broke in OTAs, but it hasn’t seemed to hinder him much.
▪ There was a lot of pre-camp talk about the Panthers’ lack of depth at safety. But Colin Jones served notice Friday that he should not be overlooked. Jones, one of Carolina’s most productive special teams players, picked off a pass by Garrett Gilbert in team drills and later had a nice hit on WR Brenton Bersin.
▪ Jones’ interception came on a batted pass by defensive tackle Vernon Butler, the 2016 first-round pick who has been taking advantage of increased reps this week.
▪ Punter Andy Lee looks to be in midseason form. He had some really nice placement to test the returners, and nice hang time. It’s imporant that he stays healthy, because he was a field-position weapon before injuring the knee on his plant leg last year.
▪ Byrd, Duke and Kaelin Clay were on punt return duties. Byrd dropped a Michael Palardy punt.