To put it bluntly, the first week of training camp had basically sucked heading into Wednesday. Last Saturday Daryl Williams tore his MCL and dislocated his patella. This Monday Ross Cockrell broke his leg. Witnesses to both incidents used the same phrase – “screaming in pain” – when describing the players’ reactions to their respective injuries.
On the same day Cockrell was lost for the season, rookie Rashaan Gaulden nearly decapitated teammate Jarius Wright with an overly aggressive play.
Hooray for football?
Let’s face it, nothing kills the joy of finally hearing pads pop like grown men writhing on the ground in agony.
With that Debbie Downer overview as the backdrop, can I get an “amen” in declaring, “Thank goodness for Wednesday?” Here was some of the sunshine that burst through the gloom of an otherwise dreary training camp.
Donte Jackson – Future hall of famer?
It was a joy watching Twitter light up with reports of Donte Jackson breaking up three Cam Newton passes in the space of about 10 minutes. And remember, this is the Cam Newton who’s going to complete like 90 percent of his passes under Norv Turner (*smiling to myself*) so the balls must have been perfectly thrown. Donte just flat out made great plays.
Few things make my football heart smile like rookies looking great in camp against established veterans. I’m calling it right now – Donte Jackson, future Hall of Famer!
DJack with ANOTHER pass breakup pic.twitter.com/nPG8wf9yof— Carolina Panthers (@Panthers) August 1, 2018
D.J. Moore - Another future hall of famer?
Okay, so if Donte Jackson is a future Hall of Famer, then so is fellow rookie D.J. Moore. After all, Moore did this to Jackson on Wednesday:
DJ Moore skies high vs Donte Jackson pic.twitter.com/Gz6gbY9RCk— Bill Voth (@PanthersBill) August 1, 2018
A couple of good looking rookies right there, my friends.
The return of Curtis Samuel
Wednesday also marked the return of Curtis Samuel, a second round pick in 2017 who was just starting to figure things out when he suffered a season-ending ankle injury in Week 10. In his first five NFL games Samuel recorded just four receptions for 12 yards. But in his final four games leading up to his injury he amassed 11 receptions for 103 yards. The rookie was clearly finding his groove in the post-Kelvin Benjamin offense and flashed some tantalizing potential before hitting injured reserve.
Samuel is fast, versatile, and dynamic. New offensive coordinator Norv Turner will likely be more creative than Mike Shula was in exploiting matchups the speedy Samuel can create. On Wednesday we finally witnessed the Year 2 version of Curtis Samuel. Just smell the upside.
Cam Newton, as Curtis Samuel runs a route: “Fresh leg alert!” pic.twitter.com/VPylb2RZS5— Bill Voth (@PanthersBill) August 1, 2018
Rooting for Bryan Cox Jr.
Bryan Cox Jr. also returned on Wednesday. Cox was an undrafted free agent in 2017 who had managed to not only make the roster last year but earn some playing time before suffering his own season-ending injury.
While Cox’s stats from last season aren’t eye-popping (7 games, 6 tackles, 0 sacks) the more important stat is that he played 130 defensive snaps in those seven games, or about 19 snaps per game. That’s significant on a team that featured entrenched veterans like Mario Addison, Julius Peppers, Charles Johnson, and Wes Horton. A successful rookie season for most UDFAs is to make the 53-man roster and play on special teams. Cox was factoring into the defensive rotation from Week 1.
As a UDFA, Cox Jr. must have shown something to Ron Rivera & Co. to earn that playing time. I always root for UDFAs. I love their underdog stories and I especially love their microscopic cap hits.
Cox Jr. could be an important player in 2018. Julius Peppers is still winning the battle against Father Time, but he is a year older. Charles Johnson is gone. The Panthers need depth and production at defensive end, and the return of Bryan Cox Jr. can only help.
DE Bryan Cox also passed his physical and is practicing for the first time at camp. pic.twitter.com/SXBh69gMPu— Max Henson (@PanthersMax) August 1, 2018
It was a happy hump day. Finally some good news!
Let’s hope for more to come.
Which piece of good news makes you the most excited?
This poll is closed
Donte Jackson - Hall of Famer
D.J. Moore - Hall of Famer
Curtis Samuel’s return
Bryan Cox Jr’s return