A huge thanks to our eyes on the ground for CSR; ‘SwampPanther', ‘PantherPaul' and ‘DC in NC' all did a fantastic job keeping us up to date in the open thread.
Today's open practice was the perfect setting to gauge the excitement for Carolina Panthers football. Over 5,500 attended the workout at Bank of America stadium, and were treated to an excellent display by a number of players. Unfortunately I couldn't be there myself, but between our own members, Twitter and local media we got some great coverage of the day. We have a lot to discuss, but here are the five biggest stories to come out of today:
1. The rookies looked fantastic
As a whole you have to be thrilled with what we're seeing from the 2012 draft class. Josh Norman was charged with covering Steve Smith for a lot of today--a task a seasoned veteran dreads, let alone a rookie. Norman did a fantastic job and continues to set himself apart from the competition. We may see that starting CB potential sooner, rather than later, especially with him taking 1st team reps today. Luke Kuechly had a highlight-reel moment as he intercepted Jimmy Clausen, and was subsequently chased down by the QB... no, Clausen didn't pursue, it was Cam Newton who gave chase from the sideline following the INT. While not as intriguing as some other guys, 6th round pick Brad Nortman did a great job punting today where he showed excellent accuracy, and a good leg. This will be invaluable for short punts. As a PR Joe Adams looked solid today too.
More after the jump
2. Greg Hardy is as big as advertised
While it was self-promotion on Hardy's part, attendees said he looked every bit of the 299 lbs he announced on Twitter. As long as it doesn't effect his speed or athleticism, this is a good thing. A larger, stronger Greg Hardy means he won't get pushed off the edge as easily, which should aid his run stopping greatly. From the outset a pairing of Johnson and Hardy would give the Panthers one of the largest DE pairings in the NFL, and with a rotation out of the gate featuring Antwan Applewhite, Thomas Keiser and Frank Alexander it will hopefully really improve the pass rush in 2012.
3. The safety spot is a carousel right now
Despite early reports that Haruki Nakamura had supplanted Sherrod Martin as 1stteam FS, the truth was that the Panthers used a rotation of players at the position for much of the day-- including moving Charles Godfrey from SS to FS and back. For a position that's in flux as much as safety this is a very good thing, and gives the coaches time to evaluate all the players on the roster for the cream to rise to the top.
4. The WR position is going to be a dog fight
Updates came fast and furiously at the receiver position today as Armanti Edwards hauled in a deep Cam Newton pass, UDFA Lamont Bryant burned Darius Butler on a TD catch, Darvin Adams got a nice TD, and Seyi Ajirotutu was catching everything thrown to him. These are four guys who are all on the brink of making the roster, and all of whom had a good day. It will be fascinating to see how this shakes out, because it looks to be a brutal time in Spartanburg if you're a Panthers WR.
5. The Panthers are practicing the little things
It's all very well to get bigger, faster, and stronger-but unless you're working on the cerebral part of the game you end up being more like an Al Davis team than a Bill Belichick team. While it didn't get a lot of play, I loved that the team spent a lot of time on the little things that tend to rear their head on game day. Punt returners spent time downing punts, not catching them; this tends to be one of the hardest things for a young, impetuous player, learning when it's okay to let the ball go, instead of making a foolish return attempt. The Panthers also spent time on wet-ball snapping, punting and kicking, and even Geoff Hangartner got to catch a pass on a fake FG play, which I'm dubbing "The Annexation of Piggy".
All in all it was a wonderful day for fans. Between the players being loose, performing well, and throwing plenty of balls into the stands it achieved the pefect goal the organization wanted, made the team open to the public and got people amped up for the season. Next stop will be Spartanburg, and we'll ensure there are eyes at training camp to keep you up to date.