Panthers Rookie Report – Good news, bad news

The Carolina Panthers training camp is underway as the 2017 rookies get acclimated to the pro football environment. Some draft picks are already making their mark, while others struggle to see the field. Two undrafted free agents are making their presence felt in tight roster battles. Here is how the 2017 Carolina Panthers rookies have fared so far.

At this point Christian McCaffrey looks like everything he was billed to be, and more. McCaffrey immediately claimed the number two running back position as soon as his cleats were laced up. At this point, the only thing holding him back from seeing maximum playing time is his inexperience at pass protection. McCaffrey recently struggled when matched up against linebackers in one on one blitzing drills.

One the Carolina Panthers coaching staff feels comfortable that CMC can ward off a blitzing defender, the sky is the limit for this rookie.

carolina panthers christian mccaffrey

McCaffrey in pass protection

I am starting to feel concerned about the prospects of Curtis Samuel this season. Samuel is now sidelined with hamstring issues, the same nagging injury that kept him from participating in most of the offseason practices. If Samuel was a veteran, I would be less concerned. But as a rookie, training camp is absolutely crucial for getting as many reps as possible. Without developing the muscle memory that can only come from practice, Samuel could fall behind considerably.

Offensive tackle Taylor Moton, on the other hand, is healthy and contributing as a backup left and right tackle. Moton is a huge individual that is performing as well as any Carolina Panthers rookie tackle I have seen. I can certainly envision Moton taking over the right tackle position full time at some point this season, and taking over left tackle in the years to come.  So far, a big thumbs up from me on Moton.

carolina panthers taylor moton

Taylor Moton

Defensive end Daeshon Hall is precisely where you would expect a third round defensive end to be. He spends most of his time with second and third string units, mainly on the left side. Hall has already improved a great deal since rookie camp back in May. If he can keep the learning curve going at this pace, he could contribute this season. If he can manage to spell Peppers, Addison, and Johnson adequately, the positive impact will be felt immediately.

Corn Elder was flashing so much promise right up until the point of being sidelined with a patella stress fracture. He is expected to miss several weeks of training camp. This is a tough blow to the defense, as Elder was looking good both at nickel and on the outside. Elder appears to be everything the Carolina Panthers had hoped Zack Sanchez would be last season.

Fullback Alex Armah is considered a project player so expectations need to be tempered. Armah isn’t seeing many reps yet, as the fullback position is quite new to him. Darrel Young is the fullback I expect to see on the Carolina Panthers roster this season, with Armah on the practice squad where he will continue to develop.

I don’t feel kicker kicker Harrison Butker is winning the kicker battle against Graham Gano currently. Overall, Butker has been less accurate than Gano who is now fully healthy after offseason surgery. Fans that are 100% expecting Butker to be the guy this season may need to temper their expectations.

There are a couple notable undrafted free agents that are making their presence felt already.

Charlotte native Austin Duke has continued to impress, including this fantastic play of the day. Duke is definitely in the mix to make the roster, especially if Curtis Samuel considers to miss time. Duke spent the majority of his college career as a slot receiver and should be able to fill in for Samuel until healthy.

You haven’t heard much about corner Cole Luke, but I have been impressed with him so far (take a look at this play). Luke has even spent time with the first string defense, filling in for the injured Corn Elder. In fact, he leap frogged Zack Sanchez at Friday’s practice. Like Austin Duke, Luke could benefit from the injuries in front of him. He is in a prime spot to take advantage.

Agree? Disagree? You can sound off right here with thousands of Carolina Panthers fans.

Jeremy Igo is owner of Carolina Huddle. Based in Charlotte, he has covered the Carolina Panthers for over a decade.