The Panthers’ rookie minicamp that concluded Saturday provided coaches their first up-close-and-personal look at Christian McCaffrey and Curtis Samuel – and gave Mike Shula an opportunity to continue thinking about how to use them.
Shula, entering his fifth season as offensive coordinator, had two fast, multi-purpose athletes dropped into his lap last weekend when the Panthers took McCaffrey and Samuel with their first two draft picks.
The Panthers wanted to improve their vertical speed – and based on what coaches and observers saw over the weekend – they certainly did that with McCaffrey and Samuel.
Shula met with reporters following Saturday’s final minicamp practice to discuss his new weapons, how they’ll make quarterback Cam Newton’s life easier and the evolution (if that’s even the right word) of the offense.
These guys (Christian McCaffrey and Curtis Samuel) have really good instincts and that’s going to help any quarterback.
Mike Shula, Panthers offensive coordinator
A sampling of what Shula had to say:
On adding speed with McCaffrey and Samuel:
I think any time you can get speed, you want to get it. Guys that have shown that they, in their collegiate careers, can get the ball in the end zone, that’s obviously a huge plus. Both of these guys have shown that they can do that, and they have some flexibility and a lot of talent. I think the other thing is when you watch the tape (you see) they are both very instinctive players.
On how they’ll help Newton:
Anytime you get guys that are talented and have speed and are instinctive and good guys with the ball in their hands and make people miss and find ways to make yards and get the ball in the end zone, that’s going to help your quarterback. We’ve got guys in place now. We’re just going to add these guys and hopefully that’ll make us more dangerous.
On whether the idea was to give Newton quicker receiving outlets so he could get the ball out faster:
You’ve heard that all offseason. The idea is you find what you think are good, quality football players that have speed because we all know how important speed is. You can’t coach speed. These guys have really good instincts and that’s going to help any quarterback.
On any concerns about not having Newton at OTAs:
You always want all your guys out here to try to create that continuity, and you’ve got to start over each and every year. When he gets back he’s going to pick things up – not scheme-wise, but just to get the rhythm back with the guys that have been here and with the new guys.
On differences in seeing Christian McCaffrey on film and in person:
Yeah, both he and Curtis (Samuel). When those guys first come in, it kind of confirms what you see. Those two guys – as well as our other draft picks – have a lot of people excited here in Charlotte, starting with the coaches. Now it’s up to them, as well as us and the rest of the guys on our football team offensively speaking, to bring this thing together and get better each day and get ourselves ready for the opener.
On how different the offense will look:
I’m not sure. We’ll have to see (laughs). Hopefully, we’ll be back to where we were in 2015 as far as production. That’s the No. 1 thing. How we get there will be things we’re talking about from today all the way through OTAs and the summer and training camp. Our job is to maximize the guys that we have and get them playing as fast as we can and do what they do best.
On the expectation that there will be new wrinkles:
Whenever you bring guys in you want to find out what they do best. We’ve all seen them in college and seen some of the things they do well in college. So we’ll look at those things. But we also think there’s a lot of things within our scheme that we’ve done that they’re going to do very well.
On whether ‘evolve’ is appropriate when describing changes to the offense:
I like, “production.” We’re coaches. So whatever words you guys want to.
On whether he preferred McCaffrey’s fit over that of Leonard Fournette:
We liked them all.