Last week’s Carolina Panthers rookie camp provided for us a first glimpse into what exactly the Panthers’ “evolved” offense may look like. I would argue the rookies themselves indicate which direction the offense is going. So lets take a look at how the new kids looked in the two day minicamp.
The most significant additions to the offense were running back Christian McCaffrey and wide receiver Curtis Samuel. These two players combined change the entire landscape of the Carolina Panthers offense. From top to bottom, their speed instantly changes the dynamic of the Panthers offense. Clearly, the Panthers wanted to get faster on offense and had that in mind on draft day.
First round pick Christian McCaffrey spent time at running back. He spent time at wide receiver. He spent time at punt returner. He spent time at kick returner. I think it is safe to say if it involves a football in the hands of a Carolina Panthers player, Christian McCaffrey will be involved. After watching McCaffrey first hand, I am comfortable in saying he has the quickest feet of any Panthers ball carrier that I have ever seen. I can still remember the rookie camp of Deangelo Williams, and McCaffrey’s feet beats his pretty easily.
McCaffrey was mainly used on the outside, as you might expect. Once in space, rookie defenders struggled to keep up with him. Of course, once the Panthers veteran defense returns to the practice field this will change. The only question is how much? Stay tuned
Wide Receiver Curtis Samuel is another rookie you will want to keep a close eye on. In my view, he stood out the most at rookie camp. Although Samuel was brought in as a slot receiver, I am starting to think eventually he may play on the outside as well. Samuel has the ability to make defenders miss at the point of contact which makes him the perfect player for the quick passes to the sideline that became Steve Smith’s bread and butter for many years.
Offensive tackle Taylor Moton spent time on both the right and left side of the offensive line. Moton is a physical prototype for an offensive tackle in the NFL. You don’t really appreciate that fact until you see him standing next to and dwarfing other huge men in football jerseys. Moton has a physique more like veteran tackle Michael Oher than anyone else on the roster. Moton spent the entire camp dominating the defensive line, which is what you should expect from a second round offensive tackle. But he did so with such ease, it makes me wonder if he could not rise within the ranks much faster than expected. Crazier things have happened.
The Panthers for the first time under Dave Gettleman drafted a fullback. The problem is, Alex Armah isn’t really a fullback. He is, however, a very athletic man with the size of a prototypical NFL fullback. What he lacks is experience. Armah was used in rookie camp as any true fullback is typically used. Lined up in front of the ball carrier, paving the way. What is interesting to note here is that Armah did not line up as a tight end, which some had speculated he would do. It appears the Carolina Panthers do indeed have him pegged for more of the classic bruising fullback role, which is music to my ears.
An undrafted player you may want to keep an eye on this year is wide receiver Fred Ross. Last year’s UDFA receiver Keyarris Garrett will have his hands full trying save his practice squad spot from Ross. The players have similar size and build, but Ross appeared to have superior speed and play making ability. This will be an interesting camp matchup for die hard Panthers fans to enjoy throughout camp and preseason.