Carolina Panthers

5 things to watch during Panthers’ rookie minicamp this weekend

Grading the Panthers' selection of Christian McCaffrey in the NFL Draft

Panthers beat reporter Jourdan Rodrigue assesses the Panthers' first-round draft pick, Christian McCaffrey out of Stanford.
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Panthers beat reporter Jourdan Rodrigue assesses the Panthers' first-round draft pick, Christian McCaffrey out of Stanford.

The Carolina Panthers will hold their rookie minicamp this weekend, bringing their draft picks to the practice fields outside of Bank of America Stadium and running them through drills and installing plays.

Carolina will also welcome notable undrafted free-agent signings and likely a few tryout players. Friday’s practice begins at 10:45 a.m., and Saturday’s will begin at 3:30 p.m.

Here are the five biggest storylines to watch:

1. A first look at Christian McCaffrey

Though many have seen his game film, rookie minicamp will provide a first look at running back Christian McCaffrey, the Panthers’ No. 8 overall draft pick.

Since the team will run through an installation period, it might offer a look at how Panthers plan to use the dynamic back.

At Stanford, McCaffrey was used in just about every type of run scheme and formation, including direct-snap packages, but was also used as a slot and outside receiver and kick and punt returner.

2. Who else will be there?

All of the team’s draft picks, undrafted free agents and tryout players (enough to field about 50 players) will be present. Younger rostered players without much game experience will also attend.

The more tenured players won’t attend, as they are not eligible – but they can be spectators.

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Former Texas A&M defensive end Daeshon Hall is raw, but he has the physical capabilities Carolina needs in a pass-rusher. Sam Craft AP

3. Can Daeshon Hall fit into the pass rush rotation immediately?

The Panthers don’t lack defensive ends, with Mario Addison and veterans Charles Johnson and Julius Peppers expected to rotate through the starting spots. Behind them are Wes Horton, who showed improvement at the end of last season, and Hall, a Texas A&M product drafted by the Panthers at No. 77 (via trade).

Hall is raw, but he has the physical capabilities Carolina desires in a pass-rusher, including a 6-foot-6, 260-pound frame and great speed. Watching his motor during drills might give clues to the Panthers’ plans for Hall’s immediate future: Will he be a project or situational role player behind the veterans in 2017?

4. Could offensive tackle Taylor Moton compete for a starting job?

The Panthers got the deal of the year at pick No. 64 in 6-5, 320-pound Western Michigan tackle Moton. He can play tackle or guard, and spent time at both as a starter in college.

Moton is also highly intelligent, and while he appears to be a backup tackle at a glance at the Panthers’ roster depth, he could be heir apparent on the right side depending on Michael Oher and Daryl Williams’ performance.

Moton will likely be tested at guard. The Panthers liked what they saw when starting guard Trai Turner was forced to shift to tackle in the wake of a “position catastrophe” with a number of injuries last season, so having another versatile starter-ready player could be a focus for Moton in the preseason.

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Because of his fiery, motivated personality, former Clemson linebacker Ben Boulware will be exciting to watch this preseason. David J. Phillip AP

5. How Clemson linebacker Ben Boulware uses his free-agent shot

Boulware, a solid linebacker prospect from Clemson, impressed coach Ron Rivera with his decision to sign with Carolina as an undrafted free agent.

Rivera liked that Boulware chose to sign his contract with Carolina, as the team has had trouble bringing in linebackers to compete. They know the starting spots – which belong to Luke Kuechly, Thomas Davis and Shaq Thompson – are set.

Boulware will have the same chance as every other player to make the 53-man roster, and because of his fiery, motivated personality he will be exciting to watch this preseason.

Jourdan Rodrigue: 704-358-5071, @jourdanrodrigue

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