The Wofford practice field was too wet to be used, so the third day of Panthers' training camp was back in Gibbs stadium. Pleasant early weather gave way to oppressive heat, and I have the farmer's tan to prove it.
The good news
Cam Newton was a lot more accurate on Sunday, and really settled into his rhythm. There were a few questionable passes here or there, but overall he showed a lot better touch on difficult passes. The Panthers worked a lot of quick-twitch routes, where naturally the small receivers would excel. Newton got the ball out quickly, and showed a deft touch playing the sidelines.
Two receivers set themselves apart in the day's session: Brandon LaFell, and Ted Ginn. Nobody was better than LaFell over the weekend, and if I had to give belabored 'MVP' award, it would go to him. He was the only receiver who didn't drop a single pass, and looks a little faster than he's been in the past. Ginn looks like a legitimate burner as a third wideout -- but he's done that in the past too. What is noticeable is how much better his body control is, particularly as he contorts to passes away from his body.
It's stunning how big of a leap Joe Adams took today. He practiced better than I've ever seen him, and for the first time looked like a legitimate slot receiver -- however, this also came with a drop or two. Armanti Edwards was much the same as yesterday, which is to say he's starting to make me a believer. Perhaps this is the year he can finally shake the moniker of being a camp performer.
Josh Norman's coverage skills are vastly improved. He still committed a few obvious pass interference penalties, but he's sticking on the receiver's hips better and hounding passes in close coverage. To this end it's important to note that Charles Godfrey is taking an active leadership role with the DBs, and is who they're all looking up to.
Greg Hardy and Charles Johnson are still monsters, but they looked like 20.0 sack defensive ends in relation to the players they were against (more on that later). Star Lotulelei and Kawann Short looked fine, but none of the DTs really shined today.
The bad news
No player was more consistently disappointing over the weekend than David Gettis. His route running is still rounded, he's not getting the separation we saw in 2010, and he dropped two passes today that Ginn hauled in on similar throws. If this keeps up there is no way he sniffs the 53 man roster.
The offensive line is as bad as I've seen in a long time. Today's bright spot was Amini Silatolu, who looks to have slimmed down a little and become more athletic as a result. He was shutting down the young defensive tackles, and man-handled Dwan Edwards for much of the day. Jordan Gross was routinely beaten by Greg Hardy, Byron Bell was a turnstile against Charles Johnson, and Geoff Hangartner still looked like Geoff Hangartner. What's more worrying is how poor the backups looked, where everybody struggled.
Based on this weekend...
Here are my final thoughts from the two practices I watched:
- Jimmy Clausen is a near-lock to make the roster, and I think he could legitimately pressure Derek Anderson. He has a new, slightly-elongated throwing motion -- but is getting a lot of zip from his passes as a result. There are still several "WTF!" moments, but nowhere near as many as last year.
- The offensive line needs help fast, and I'd like to say it's because of DL dominance. A lot of the struggles are their own, and with Dave Gettleman looking on he will probably realize that too.
- I'm more bullish on the safeties than I was entering camp. Godfrey looks so much better at FS, and Robert Lester has a lot of potential. Mike Mitchell was used a lot in safety blitzes, which is a great role for him. It wouldn't surprise me to see SS by committee, given how they're tinkering with third-down packages.
- My WR depth chart right now is: Smith/LaFell/Ginn/Hixon/Edwards/Adams -- that's who I think makes the roster in the end.