Carolina Panthers training camp begins this Thursday in Spartanburg, SC. Here are four fearless predictions of things to come.
Rookie cornerback James Bradberry will impress.
The Carolina Panthers success this season hinges squarely on the performance of their young secondary. It is the only real questions mark on a roster filled with established NFL talent.
When the Carolina Panthers drafted James Bradberry in the second round of the NFL draft, they had Josh Norman in mind. Norman flourished in the Carolina Panthers defensive scheme as primarily a zone corner that could shut down entire areas of the field. Like Norman, Bradberry will be charged with the same responsibility.
In uniform, Bradberry could be a Josh Norman clone. Both players have nearly identical physical traits and even share the same jersey number. I remember remarking to other members of the media at Carolina Panthers OTA practices just how much Bradberry looks like Norman. They all agreed.
Bradberry will be the first rookie cornerback to really impress coaches and fans alike. His physical tools are a proven winner in the Panther system. Bradberry will begin to put at ease the concerns over the Panthers secondary by week three of training camp.
Punches will be thrown.
Last year there were two fights in Panthers training camp. Cam Newton vs Josh Norman which received an unprecedented amount of media coverage, and Michael Oher vs Dolphins defensive end Olivier Vernon.
The recipe for training camp fights is a simple one. First, place very large alpha males in the blazing heat and unforgiving humidity. Next, have them push and shove each other for a few hours. Then, remind them that their jobs are on the line as younger players are trying to move up the depth chart. The result? Big emotions and short fuses which can lead to thrown punches.
This is not necessarily a bad thing, however. Players are rarely injured during skirmishes. In some cases, it can actually release tensions for the whole team, as it did last year in the Newton v Norman fisticuffs. After that fight took place the remaining practices seemed less tense and the team a more cohesive unit.
Stephen Hill will step up.
There is much uncertainty surrounding the fifth wide receiver to make the Carolina Panthers roster. If I was a betting man, my money would be on Stephen Hill.
Hill has everything you would ever want physically in a wide receiver. He is tall. He has blazing speed. The main thing that has held him back in the NFL is his propensity to drop passes. However, this year Hill appears to have fixed that issue. During offseason practices he dropped far fewer balls than seasons past.
If Stephen Hill can continue to reliably catch the football, the Carolina Panther will have the deepest and most talented wide receivers corps in franchise history.
Daryl Williams will stake his claim.
When the Carolina Panthers selected Daryl Williams in the fourth round of the 2015 draft, it was clear the Panthers wanted an upgrade at right tackle.
Williams quickly impressed last year as a rookie. His outstanding play in camp and preseason made his starting spot on the right side all but certain. But then Williams suffered a sprained MCL during the Carolina Panthers season opener against the Jacksonville Jaguars. That injury halted his progress and limited Williams’ playing time for the remainder of the 2015 season.
This year, Williams is healthy and acclimated to the pro game. While current starter Mike Remmers is a solid player, the Panthers would still love to see the right tackle position upgraded. Daryl Williams is ready and will accept that challenge.
The 2016 Carolina Panthers 2016 training camp begins this Thursday. We will be there daily covering the action and checking back in on these predictions. Stay tuned.