I apologize in advance.
I feel like I’ve been leading off these dispatches with inspections of the offensive line drills more than I should – but the truth is that between the personality of John Matsko, the questions along the line between Greg Little, Daryl Williams, Greg Van Roten and others, the physical nature of the guys playing the position and the incredibly intensity and technical perfection the game demands, it’s just incredibly interesting.
So indulge me while I take you inside a specific drill.
During a padded practice this morning, pairs of linemen were practicing double teams and the importance of being ‘hip to hip’ while they drove a defender backwards, presumably during a running play. After the starters on the left side (Williams and Van Roten) pushed a lineman holding a heavy bag backwards about ten yards, rookies Greg Little and Dennis Daley lined up hip-to-hip and burst forward to push Dillon Gordon – acting as the ‘defender’ – backwards, plowing a road for the hypothetical rusher behind them.
But Matsko didn’t like it.
John Matsko didn’t like this rep – said Little was stepping with the top of his feet. “You’re not going to move anybody with that hippity hop.”
Took two more reps and some tips from GVR but Little got there.
Elicited a “Hell yeah” from GVR. pic.twitter.com/isb2sseuD2
— The Riot Report (@RRiotReport) August 5, 2019
Matsko explained to Little that he was on the toes of his feet instead of the balls and he couldn’t generate power – “You’re not going to move anybody with that hippity hop!”
So he sent Little and Daley back to the line to do it again – which they did, although not to a satisfactory level, so Matsko sent them back to the line again. This time Greg Van Roten, standing behind the pair, gave Little some advice or where to put his feet to ensure they were in the right spot – and they went again.
Not good enough.
This time, Matsko came over and dropped his hat where he wanted Little to step past and the rookie executed the block the way he was being taught – the difference in push was clear. So was the difference in reaction. Daryl Williams let out a celebratory yell and Van Roten gave out a ‘hell yeah’ – everyone likes to see a rookie learning.
Left foot to the hat, and drive. Morning OL work. Daryl Williams offering tips and some encouragement to Little. pic.twitter.com/sj7pcpV2af
— Jourdan Rodrigue (@JourdanRodrigue) August 5, 2019
Here were some other things I noticed during today’s padded practice – the only padded practice of this segment of camp:
- Sitting out practice today were Efe Obada and Marquis Haynes, both of which were excused for personal reasons and the team expects to have them back in the building this afternoon. Kevon Seymour continues to sit out with a hamstring issue that will likely keep him out at least for the rest of the week. Mario Addison, Jarius Wright and Bruce Irvin had vet days while Rashaan Gaulden, Tyler Larsen and rookie running back Jordan Scarlett rehabbed to the side – not a big deal for Larsen, whose backup center spot is secure, but I’m sure the coaches would like as many opportunities as possible to see both Gaulden at the ‘big nickel’ and Scarlett with the ball in his hands as they try to make sense of what this roster will look like as we head towards the regular season. Barring a comeback tomorrow, I’d be surprised if we see any of those three players playing in Chicago on Thursday night.
- As far as the quarterbacks go, Ron Rivera said we “should” see all four quarterbacks playing on Thursday night, but I have my doubts as to whether Cam Newton will actually suit up on the road in Chicago. They certainly have more to gain from watching Will Grier and Kyle Allen compete for the backup spot than Newton trying to build rapport with his pass catchers, almost all of whom were here last year; if it were up to me, I’d let him get some work with Paradis during the second and third weeks of the preseason just to get each other used to the snapping motions and be done with it. Much more important for Newton to play in September than show how healthy he is in August.
- With Larsen out, there was a series of events that led to sixth-rounder Dennis Daley getting reps at left guard with the first team – Paradis sat out a series and GVR kicked over to center – and it was fascinating to watch the former South Carolina tackle go against Kawann Short – and win. Of course, Daley is still a rookie – a couple of plays later, third-stringer Bihjon Jackson blew past him and directly into the quarterback. But still, seeing the accelerated growth of Daley at this stage is exciting; there’s no guarantees a sixth-round pick will end up on the roster, let alone making an impact.
- With Irvin and Addison both getting vet days and Haynes absent, rookies Brian Burns and Christian Miller got the nod at outside linebackers to begin team drills. Burns looked to tweak something in his lower leg and limped off, but the rookie returned to practice and looked as fast as ever late in the session on his way to terrorizing the quarterback. Ron Rivera said after practice there wasn’t any concern with Burns’ health.
- Luke Kuechly didn’t participate in some team drills today, but while he was held out, he did individuals on the adjacent field with coaches and trainers – I wouldn’t expect Kuechly to play Thursday night, so it made sense to give Jermaine Carter more of an opportunity to run with the first team if that’s where he’ll be in Chicago. They’re going to be very cautious with Kuechly, who Rivera said didn’t enter the concussion protocol – they should be – and are – handling Kuechly with the same kid-gloves they’re handling Newton.
- With Scarlett out, there was an opportunity for the other running backs to shine. Holyfield had a great run where he patiently waited for a hole to open up in the middle before exploding through it, Cameron Artis-Payne put Javien Elliott on skates with his patented jump-cut and Reggie Bonnafon – aside from having the best showing of the day during one-on-one pass protection drills – looked smooth running routes and making catches out of the backfield. I maintain that of the three running backs, Bonnafon has the skillset that’s most similar to Christian McCaffrey, so if they want someone who is a direct backup, he would make a lot of sense on the roster – although might be a candidate to spend another year stashed on the practice squad.
Bonnafon vs Celestin pic.twitter.com/2u8Kih7ZTE
— The Riot Report (@RRiotReport) August 5, 2019
- For as open as Aldrick Robinson has been able to get, he’s dropped just as many balls. He continues to get reps with the first team, but those will disappear quickly with every pass that hits his hands and falls to the ground.
- Two interceptions on the goalline today: Javien Elliott, who has impressed the past two days at the nickel spot, picking off Cam Newton and Lorenzo Doss, who seems to be on the negative end of a fair amount of plays thus far this camp, picking off a telegraphed Kyle Allen throw.
- There were multiple candidates for play of the day – Jaydon Mickens ripping a ball away from Colin Jones in the end zone for a score, a juggling one-handed catch by Torrey Smith as he laid out for a pass from Kyle Allen or a pass tipped by Greg Olsen that popped up in the air and Donte Jackson pulled it down for an interception. My nomination would be one that might not get that many accolades as Cam Newton led Olsen perfectly towards the sidelines on a ten-yard out and the tight end stuck one paw up in the air and pulled the ball in like he was catching an ice cold Coors Light at the lake from a buddy. Smooth.