Tom Sorensen

Panthers minicamp: The player who looked fast, even standing still

Carolina Panthers rookie wide receiver Curtis Samuel is quickly exciting fans of the team.
Carolina Panthers rookie wide receiver Curtis Samuel is quickly exciting fans of the team. jsiner@charlotteobserver.com

A player who’s intriguing to watch at minicamp is Curtis Samuel, the wide receiver out of Ohio State whom the Panthers drafted in the second round.

Even when he stands still, he looks fast. It’s like seeing a Ferrari in somebody’s driveway. Nobody has to start it. You just know.

Samuel ran a 4.31 40 at the NFL scouting combine. When he runs patterns, his speed is instant. There’s no buildup. I am, therefore I go.

Samuel ran sprints of 40 to 60 yards backward, and he still flew. He’d finish the backward sprint and need 5 to 10 yards to come to a stop.

Cam Newton is still going to run this season. Why waste that gift? But he doesn’t need to run as frequently. He can roll out and hit Samuel or first-round pick Christian McCaffrey with a quick pass.

Although former Panther Steve Smith was a deep threat, he also would catch passes near the line of scrimmage and take off. I’m not comparing the rookies to Smith, I assure you. But it’s easy to envision Samuel or Christian McCaffrey parlaying a short pass into long gain.

Paired with Samuel was wide receiver Kelvin Benjamin. He did not look giant.

Another rookie who stood out is Taylor Moton. Even for a lineman, Moton is big. Another second-round pick, Moton is 6-5 and 325 pounds. There is so much of him that when he stands he sort of does it in stages.

A rookie who made a nice one-hand end zone catch was Austin Duke, the wide receiver out of Charlotte. Keyarris Garrett, a second-year receiver out of Tulsa, made a fine leaping catch over Shaq Thompson. Russell Shepard beat Teddy Williams deep for a touchdown.

Training camp opens in Spartanburg July 26. Minicamp, which is closed to the public, offers a sneak preview.

Newton did throw, incidentally. But it was underhand, and his target was only 5 yards away. He completed it.

Tom Sorensen is a retired Charlotte Observer columnist. Sign up for his newsletter, and follow him on Twitter: @tomsorensen

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