Another Carolina Panthers rookie camp has come and gone, as it tends to do every year. But this year was a little different. Never before did the Panthers have so many play making rookies on the offensive side of the ball. Last year, for example, featured three corners and a defensive tackle. All important positions, but lacking in the excitement a running back or wide receiver can give. Here are five things I learned over the two day camp.
Christian McCaffrey is as advertised. In the course of the camp, I saw McCaffrey run the ball, catch passes, return punts and return kickoffs. I cannot recall any rookie taking on so many roles on any Carolina Panthers squad. McCaffrey has the quickest feet of any Panthers running back I have seen. If offensive coordinator Mike Shula can truly use McCaffrey to his full potential, he has the ability to greatly increase the offensive production of the Carolina Panthers.
Receiver Keyarris Garrett has his work cut out for him. Last year, Garrett was the only rookie wide receiver that stood out in the offseason. Already I can tell you that won’t be the case this year. Garrett did not have the best performance of a wide receiver in rookie camp. Nor did the have the second best performance. If I had to rank them, it would me Samuel, Ross, then Garrett. Garrett should clearly be ahead of the pack at this point, having been in a pro program for a year now.
Speaking of receiver Fred Ross, he quietly put together a very solid rookie camp. On Saturday he “flashed”, making the most impressive catch of all rookie camp. Ross wrestled the football away from a defender, secured it, and landed on his feet all in a single move (pictured below). This type of play is enough to catch the attention of the Carolina Panthers coaches. I am not ready to predict a roster spot for Ross, but at least a practice squad jersey looks likely.
Second round pick Taylor Moton is a big guy, with big ability to match. Moton effortlessly manhandled anyone that came near him at rookie camp. This includes third round pick Daeshon Hall. Moton split time between left and right tackle, something Ron Rivera indicated he will continue to do throughout the offseason. I am anxious to see how he does against Charles Johnson and Julius Peppers. That should prove to be very interesting.
And finally, I learned something about second round pick Curtis Samuel. Namely, I learned not to take my eyes off of him when he is near the ball. Samuel is the most dynamic and exciting wide receiver I have seen in a Carolina Panthers uniform since Steve Smith. While this may sound like blasphemy to some, I am confident most will agree once they see him in action. Samuel showed the balance and elusive ability that 89 was known for. If Samuel can become just 75% of what Steve Smith was, he will be the best receiver on the Panthers roster.