On an early May day where the temperature just clicked over the 90 degree mark, the Panthers held what is considered to be a no-no in today’s NFL – the beloved “two a day”, holding two on-field sessions with just a group of just over 50 players that consisted of the 2018 draft class, undrafted free agents, invited tryouts, and a select few players who had not participated in an NFL game. But just because it wasn’t a full practice (the players didn’t even wear helmets in the morning session before strapping them on without shells in the afternoon) doesn’t mean the Panthers weren’t playing serious. Run game coordinator John Matsko had some choice words for an offensive lineman he felt wasn’t listening well enough and Lance Taylor spent much of the session correcting routes and footwork; here are some quick hits that we noticed from the two sessions today. Take them all with a grain of salt, this was literally the first practice of the year and it’s hard to evaluate with no pads, no tackling and at one point, no helmets.
- When you talk about players looking the part, there were two that really stood out: defensive end Efe Obada (6’6, 255 pounds) and WR Bug Howard (6’4, 220 pounds) – there was a point during the afternoon session where Obada was a full head taller than anyone else in the huddle and he seemed able to push past most tackles with ease. Hard to tell with no pads, but you want someone who spent all of 2017 on the Panthers’ practice squad to look better than guys coming in off the street, and he definitely did. Former UNC WR Bug Howard stood tall over the rest of the receivers, but didn’t particularly impress in the one-on-one drills or the team drills; it will take a big day tomorrow to get him invited back for the rest of the summer.
- Speaking of someone who spent last year on the practice squad, seeing Austin Duke make some plays (and he did) was a welcome addition to the day, as was his consistent jawing back and forth with second-round pick Donte Jackson when they were matched up one-on-one. They endlessly debated each rep, trying to decide who won. Duke – “That’s toast in the NFL!” Jackson – “He’s got to fit the ball in there first and that ain’t happening!” It’s going to be a fun matchup throughout OTAs and training camp if both of them keep it up, and there’s no reason to think they won’t.
- It was hot out there. Like Spartanburg hot.
He wasn’t lying. It was a 🔥 one out there today. pic.twitter.com/obUyfbA0us
— Josh Klein (@joshkleinrules) May 11, 2018
- Speaking of DJ Moore, he flashed multiple times, taking both jet sweeps and smoke routes for big gains; again, there were no pads and no tackling, so it’s hard to tell, but it was still good to see – you want your first round pick to catch your eye, especially when he’s playing against other rookies.
- Donte Jackson had a scoop-and-score of what appeared to be an Elijah Hood fumble during team drills. He had things to say afterwards; he likes to talk – he also was waving on an imaginary crowd to psych himself up at one point. He’s going to be fun – Jackson compared himself to Josh Norman after practice, and he certainly has the personality for it – says he was born with swag.
- Of the invitees, RB Kalif Phillips looked particularly impressive during running back pass-catching drills, as did UDFA Reggie Bonnafon. It will be interesting to see how the Panthers use Bonnafon, who played QB, RB and WR at Louisville. If Phillips plays tomorrow the way he played today, we may be seeing him in August as well.
- TE Ian Thomas showed the athleticism and catch radius that brought him here, going up the ladder a few times for catches and running past coverages at one point. He was working on the blocking sleds and getting special attention from Ron Rivera; blocking will be something Thomas will have to work on as tight ends weren’t asked to do a lot of it in the Indiana offense.
- Again, it was hot out there.
“I’m a Louisianimal.” pic.twitter.com/cGJXxHp4jO
— Josh Klein (@joshkleinrules) May 11, 2018
- Both Kyle Allen and Marcus McDade missed some throws, but Allen looked noticeably sharper – will be interesting to see if the team rolls with Gilbert and Allen as the backups to Cam Newton or if Derek Anderson gets pulled off the golf course as we get closer to August.
- S Rashaan Gaulden was as versatile as advertised, being asked to line up everywhere from a single-high safety to in the box over the nose tackle. They are throwing a lot at him in install, a huge part of the Panthers defense will depend on how he absorbs Eric Washington’s defense.
- First to Practice Award went to Elijah Hood.
- Former Oregon CB Ty Griffin appeared to make multiple plays during team drills; he was also the only player wearing bright orange cleats – Cam would approve.