The Carolina Panthers opened training camp last week and as such the rookies get their first taste of professional football. It is always interesting to see which first year players acclimate quickly to the next level.
I am not sure why there is not more hype over wide receiver DJ Moore. I can remember when Kelvin Benjamin was drafted. The media hounded him, the fans could not get enough. But Moore has gone somewhat under the radar. I do know that it is not because of his play. Moore looks like the most complete wide receiver the Carolina Panthers have drafted since a guy named Steve Smith. Moore has one of the quickest first few steps I have seen in a Panthers uniform. I suspect he will contribute a great deal to the Panthers offense this season.
Second round corner Donte Jackson has shown promise, but like all corners coming into the NFL needs time to adjust to the pro game. What Jackson is not lacking is confidence, and that actually may help him develop faster. The worst thing a rookie corner can do in this league is get down on himself. Keep that chip on the shoulder as long as you can. I don’t think we will see Jackson as a day 1 starter, but rather rotated in to cover the faster Ted Ginn type receivers.
Nickel turned Safety Rashaan Gaulden has seen work mainly with the second and third string teams. Gaulden has a lot on his plate, not only adjusting to the speed of the NFL but also the safety position within Ron Rivera’s system. You may see him on the field some this season, particularly on special teams.
Tight End Ian Thomas is a guy I am particularly excited about. For my money, he has been the most standout rookie after DJ Moore. Thomas has shown all the physical ability in the world to be a starting TE in the NFL. He has also quickly developed a nice chemistry with Cam Newton, catching more than his fair share of balls from the first string quarterback. I am not ready to peg him as the second string tight end just yet, but if Chris Manhertz doesn’t get on the field soon he may find himself replaced.
One last rookie I would like to mention is linebacker Andre Smith out of Chapel Hill. Hill was a seventh round selection and has worked his way up to the occasional rep with the second string. This isn’t something easy to do for a seventh rounder this early in his career. Smith looks like a NFL linebacker out there and rarely looks lost. The Panthers may have found themselves a late round gem in Smith if he can continue to improve.Agree? Disagree? You can sound off right here with thousands of Carolina Panthers fans.