The Carolina Panthers are in the last leg of the offseason this week as they begin their mandatory minicamp on Tuesday morning.
The practices, which are closed to the public, run from about 8:30 a.m.-10:30 a.m. through Thursday at the practice fields adjacent to Bank of America Stadium.
There will be no shortage of storylines throughout. Here are some we’ll be watching:
Cam Newton won’t actually be throwing
Last week, head coach Ron Rivera said that Panthers quarterback Cam Newton was “ahead of schedule” in his rehabilitation process and would throw on the sidelines of minicamp this week.
On Monday evening, the Panthers’ team site released a report that stated Newton won’t actually throw (even on the sideline), and that Rivera “got ahead of himself by one week.”
Newton had shoulder surgery earlier this spring to repair a partially-torn rotator cuff in his throwing arm.
Will Michael Oher show up?
Between health concerns and ongoing legal issues, it’s still unclear whether tackle Michael Oher will be at the mandatory camp.
Last week, Rivera said he hoped Oher would be present but indicated he was not sure. A report from the team website last week said general manager Dave Gettleman flew out to Nashville to visit Oher on May 5, but after a few followups communication has ceased. Oher still remains in the NFL’s concussion protocol, and has for more than eight months.
With Matt Kalil expected to man the left side and Oher’s status unknown, backup right tackle Daryl Williams may be the team’s starter opposite Kalil. He’ll have a healthy dose of competition in massive rookie tackle Taylor Moton, who is also expected to learn the left tackle position to lend depth behind Kalil.
Christian McCaffrey is back.
An NCAA and NFL rule prevented the Panthers’ first-round draft pick from attending rookie minicamp, but running back Christian McCaffrey will be back in action Thursday.
McCaffrey has been studying his playbook and speaking often with Panthers running backs coach Jim Skipper, according to Rivera, and has been working out by himself in hopes that he’ll be a seamless addition to Thursday’s team drills.
It will be notable to watch the types of packages the Panthers run with McCaffrey, and how he and veteran back Jonathan Stewart complement each other – as well as how McCaffrey and second-round pick Curtis Samuel work together to speed up Carolina’s offense.
Will Julius Peppers be in action?
Defensive end Julius Peppers, a 16-year NFL veteran, was held out of team drills and on-field workouts throughout OTAs as a precaution by Carolina’s coaching staff. The team wants to use Peppers as efficiently as possible, and part of that means preserving his body in preparation for a grueling season.
Peppers has still been involved in team meetings and indoor workouts, according to Rivera, and he’ll certainly stand out on the field if he returns to outdoor activities this week – he’s bigger than just about every other player on Carolina’s roster.
Veteran defensive end Charles Johnson has also been limited as he progresses through his rehabilitation process after a microdiscectomy this spring.
Who can provide secondary depth?
After the Panthers waived Tre Boston before OTAs, an opportunity for a large group of inexperienced safeties appeared. Behind starters Mike Adams and Kurt Coleman, the team needs reliable depth. L.J. McCray and Dean Marlowe are poised to be the two standout names in this group this week.
On the outside, corners Daryl Worley and James Bradberry still hold Carolina’s starting spots as they head into their sophomore seasons. But they’ll need depth behind them too, and nickel Captain Munnerlyn has continued to compete outside. Bradberry is also limited after fracturing his left wrist at OTAs last week, so backups have extra opportunities.
Teddy Williams reportedly made some big plays during the final week of OTAs, and it will be intriguing to see if he can keep his momentum. Meanwhile, Zack Sanchez is trying to find his rhythm after finishing the 2016 season on injured reserve, and undrafted free agent pickup Cole Luke is an underdog trying to earn a roster spot.