The Panthers had almost the full 90-man roster in attendance for Wednesday’s OTA practice, and while some teams around the NFL continue to see much lower attendance rates the Panthers are using this as a chance to get ahead of the curve in preparation for training camp towards the end of July, in stark contrast to a year when the Panthers were still working virtually at this point.
This ability to get on the field and rep what they are covering in practice should certainly help the Panthers, especially as they are once again one of the very youngest rosters in the NFL, but with one practice a week open to the media, the more ‘normal’ offseason workout program is also providing a glimpse of how things are progressing, which players are impressing and how the new pieces are starting to fit in. So, what caught the eye from Wednesday’s practice?
- Still no Robby Anderson at OTAs, who wasn’t present for all of last week either, and no DaQuan Jones either, but both Bravvion Roy and Daviyon Nixon were present after missing last week. Speaking to media following practice, Matt Rhule said that he has no concerns about Anderson’s continued absence and expects that he will be present for the mandatory minicamp later in the month.
- A number of players were still in red jerseys through practice, including Jeremy Chinn, Brian Burns, Troy Pride, Trent Scott, Chuba Hubbard, Terrace Marshall, Yetur Gross-Matos and Marken Michel, but tackle Greg Little was back to full participation.
- Matt Rhule spoke glowingly of Ian Thomas’s progress compared to a year ago, saying that the fourth-year tight end has had a “tremendous offseason” after struggling to adjust to the new offseason last offseason without a chance to get out on the field until training camp.
- While he admitted that the tight end group will need to step-up their production to help replace the contribution that Curtis Samuel made working over the middle last season, he was optimistic that the committee of Thomas, Dan Arnold and Tommy Tremble will be up to the job.
We’ve been practicing this…
Sam Darnold to Dan Arnold‼️ pic.twitter.com/58LYoQNkeB
— Carolina Panthers (@Panthers) June 1, 2021
- Despite undergoing a minor surgery on his shoulder, it is clear that Brian Burns has been working hard this offseason and after losing weight post-surgery he is now playing slightly heavier than he did a year ago, something that Matt Rhule has mentioned in the past would be something they’d ideally like him to do.
- Something else that is clear is that the addition of Haason Reddick should only help Brian Burns, with Burns saying the fact the offenses will have to “pick their poison” when trying to block the pass rushers the Panthers are now able to put on the field.
- While unable to fully participate, Jeremy Chinn has been working with the safeties in meetings which Matt Rhule explained should help him be as ready as possible to master the mental aspects of the position once he is able to step on the field, though after spending last season meeting with the linebackers there is still an expectation that he will see snaps at multiple spots.
- With veteran free agent acquisition AJ Bouye due to be suspended for the first two games of the season as part of a six game PED suspension that started last season, first round pick Jaycee Horn is expected to start right away, and while there is a long way from one-on-ones in OTAs to the real things, he has certainly been impressive thus far with a number of notable plays on the ball.
- Rhule also spoke enthusiastically about the competition they are expected to have at running back behind Christian McCaffrey, and while rookie fourth round pick Chuba Hubbard remains sidelined for now, Reggie Bonnafon and Rodney Smith both have a chance to both push Hubbard for playing time and determine exactly what the RB2 role looks like in 2021.
- Finally, expect there to be a fairly broad competition for the starting left tackle role, with Cameron Erving, Denis Daley, Greg Little, Trent Scott and Brady Christensen likely all having a chance to get reps at the position throughout the offseason and into the preseason.
Practice won’t be open to the media against until next week, and while Rhule explained that he expects that different players will drop in and out day by day the consistently high attendance the Panthers have had to this point is both an encouraging sign of the buy-in that Rhule and his staff have been able to get and an indicator that this team should be in a much better position to hit the ground running when they return to Spartanburg for training camp in late July.
(Top photo via Brandon Todd/Carolina Panthers)