Inside the Panthers

3 takeaways from Carolina Panthers’ exhibition opener: KK, CBs and OL reserves

The biggest development involving Carolina Panthers defensive tackle Kawann Short (99) this summer could come off the field. Short and the Panthers are still talking about a new contract.
The biggest development involving Carolina Panthers defensive tackle Kawann Short (99) this summer could come off the field. Short and the Panthers are still talking about a new contract. dtfoster@charlotteobserver.com

Three takeaways from the Carolina Panthers’ preseason opener at Baltimore:

1. Communication lines remain open between Kawann Short and the Panthers.

Like a lot of starters for the Panthers, defensive tackle Kawann Short wasn’t in Thursday’s exhibition opener at M&T Bank Stadium long enough to do much. Any key developments with Short this summer will take place off the field.

While there’s been no indication a contract extension is imminent, Short told the Observer after the game the two sides continue to talk. Whether much progress has been made is another story.

After his 11-sack, Pro Bowl season in 2015, Short wants to be paid like one of the best defensive tackles in the league. That market was reset this summer when the Eagles’ Fletcher Cox and the Jets’ Muhammad Wilkerson received new deals averaging $17 million a year.

The Panthers appear unwilling to go that high. And general manager Dave Gettleman has demonstrated (see Norman, Josh) he’s OK with using the franchise tag rather than engaging in a bidding war – and then pulling said tag if necessary.

To his credit, Short has taken the high road publicly and not told the world how much he’s worth. He’s set to make a little more than $1 million this season, but his payday is coming – with the Panthers or elsewhere.

2. It was an encouraging start for the young cornerbacks.

Rookie corners James Bradberry and Daryl Worley held their own in their first NFL test. For the most part, they kept receivers in front of them, made a couple of tackles and played within the scheme.

Bradberry, the second-round pick from Samford, was beaten on a wheel route in the first half. But managed to get in position and prevent a touchdown when Ryan Mallett’s pass hit him in the back.

Worley had two tackles, including a nice stop on Mallett when the Ravens quarterback tried to scramble for a first down on third-and-long. Zack Sanchez, the third member of the Three Amigos, was a little tentative when he came in later in the game, according to Ron Rivera.

In fact, Rivera tempered his praise for the group as a whole, saying they had played OK. But strong safety Kurt Coleman was encouraged by their performance.

“They’re still rookies. They’ve still got to continue to grow,” Coleman said. “But I’m excited. They got their feet wet and I think now the jitters are out.”

That, Coleman said, is important.

“As a corner in this league, you make a couple plays that confidence continues to shoot up,” he said. “Especially with (Bradberry) coming from a smaller college, this is probably the biggest stadium he’s ever played in.”

3. The offensive line reserves had some issues.

On backup quarterback Derek Anderson’s first snap after replacing Cam Newton, second-team left tackle Daryl Williams allowed Ravens outside linebacker Za’Darius Smith to come screaming around the end for a strip-sack on Anderson.

It never got much better for the second- and third-team lines.

David Foucault, another backup tackle, allowed pressures on Anderson on consecutive plays in the second quarter. But it wasn’t only the tackles who played poorly: The Ravens were able to get a lot of interior pressure, as well.

One positive: Center Gino Gradkowski was solid in place of Ryan Kalil, who was given the night off. Gradkowski provides a veteran backup presence at center and guard. Rivera and his offensive line coaches have three weeks to find a couple more backups they can count on.

Joseph Person: 704-358-5123, @josephperson

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