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Jeremy Igo
The second week of the 2016 Carolina Panthers OTA's served up a further glimpse of what this season may bring. 
First of all, this was the first time Kelvin Benjamin practiced in front of the media. Clearly Ricky Proehl is happy to see Kelvin's return. 

Kelvin participated in all individual drills but did not participate in many team drills. He did, however, catch the ball well in the drills. 

After Practice, Kelvin ran extra wind sprints, sideline to sideline. 

Afterward, he was visibly exhausted in the running. 

Kelvin spoke to the media after practice about his conditioning. 
"It's not where I want to be at, but I am getting there" he said. 
After a year off it will take Benjamin well into training camp to be back in football shape. He is taking it slowly while rehabbing his repaired knee. Fans should pace their expectations slowly as well. 
Cam Newton continues the bandanna look, only upping the game to a throwback Panthers one. The Panthers store should stock these again pronto, would be a big seller. 

Once the helmet was on the smiles stopped and it was back to the business of football. 


Stephen Hill continued to show improved hands over last season. One interesting thing to note was he was fielding kicks as well. This was the first time I have witnessed Hill do this as a Carolina Panther. If Hill can prove to be a solid kick returner, his roster spot is all but assured. 

Other things of note: 
The Player of the day was Devin Funchess, who looked every bit as good as Kelvin Benjamin today. Funchess may quietly be the most imporoved player on the field. Keep an eye on this, he could turn heads sooner rather than later.  In KK Short's absence, Vernon Butler got plenty of snaps. In the second play of team practice, Butler burst into the backfield for what have been a loss of yards for Jonathan Stewart. Butler may have the fastest first step on the defensive line. His speed was more than impressive today.  Cam Newton's hard count drew Kony Ealy offsides, something Ealy still needs to work on.  Cameron Artis-Payne took an increased number of second string snaps today compared to last week. He looked decisive in his running and caught the ball well out of the backfield from Derek Anderson.  David Foucault had a glaring false start on a Derek Anderson hard count. Mike Shula was not happy and gave him more than an earful.  Ted Ginn got by rookie corner Daryl Worley for a large gain. Steve Wilks immediately grabbed Warley and went over shoulder positioning with him. To say Wilks is in the ear of these young men daily is an understatement.  Soon thereafter, Ted Ginn dropped a touchdown pass from Cam Newton in the back corner of the end zone. Very catchable ball was thrown.  Punter Swayze Waters easily looked like the better punter today both in accuracy and hang time. I would say he is a lock.  I am not convinced Robert McClain is the day 1 starter for the Panthers. He does well against larger, slower receivers. But he struggles against anyone with speed.  One person that should be glad these practices are non-contact is Zack Sanchez. At one point he would have been responsible for tackling Greg Olsen head on. It would not have ended well for him, I believe. Sanchez gives up 6 inches and 60 pounds to Olsen.  AJ Klein quickly snuffed out a Cam Newton screen pass, causing the defense to whoop and holler. Add screen passes to the list of things the Panthers offense constantly struggles with.  Brandon Wegher also had more snaps today compared to last week. In my opinion, he is the most dangerous back on the roster out of the backfield. He turns around and heads up field much quicker than any other back on the roster.  Though Luke Kuechly sits out of drills, he makes sure to engage in the defensive huddle before each practice period. His body may need time to recover, but his leadership does not.   

Jeremy Igo
Kawann Short, coming off a pro bowl season, took some time after practice today to talk to the media. 
First, he spoke a little on rookie defensive tackle Vernon Butler and his first impressions. Then he spoke on his contract status with the Panthers. 
Short has high praise for Butler and seems to have a healthy outlook on his contract status. See for yourself.... 
Jeremy Igo
Carolina Panthers 2016 OTA's kicked off this morning. Here are a few notes and photos worth seeing. 
The Panthers recently picked up a familiar training camp name, Marcus Lucas. Lucas transitioned to tight end from receiver last year. This year he looks more the part, having gained plenty of muscle. 

Andrew Norwell and Trai Turner are now entering their third year. This is the year many offensive line players start to come into their own. Considering their outstanding play over the past two seasons, it is hard to imagine they have yet to hit their ceiling. 

Cam Newton was sporting a new headband this morning. 

Instead of the typical elastic type, this one ties at the back. This is the kind of hard hitting journalism you have grown to expect from this site. 

Also.... Newton still goofs off a bit in drills, a disappointment to anyone hoping for a more solemn Cam Newton after the Superbowl loss. 

Wide receiver Stephen Hill showed up with a new mouthpiece and new abilities. Hill caught the ball very well, something he struggled with in the past. I did not personally see one drop from him on the day, when last year there were multiple every practice. 

GM Dave Gettleman attended practice despite having knee surgery recently. Gettleman had no brace, but did have a cane. 

Bene Benwikere did not practice with the team. He is recovering from a fractured leg still. However, he was catching balls on the sideline after practice. This was a very promising sign. 

Rookie nickel Zack Sanchez also stayed to catch a few balls and spending time around Bene. This could only help Sanchez's development. 

The last person off of the field was none other than Stephen Hill. He spent more time catching passes and talking to coaches than any other receiver. Read into that what you will. 

Random Notes: 
- Kurt Coleman and Tre Boston were the starting safeties most of the day, with Coleman actually playing the strong safety position frequently. This is something to keep an eye on. 
- James Bradberry and Robert McClain started at corner for the most amount of time. However, many different combinations were used throughout the day. Everyone is getting a look. It appears to be truly an open competition. 
- Brenton Bersin continues to make play after play after play across the middle. He may have been the best receiver on the field today. Haters, continue hating. 
- Daryl Williams and Mike Remmers split time at starting right tackle. This is one of the more intriguing camp competitions to watch this year. 
- Receiver Norwood had a nice grab today over Robert MClain. There is a serious logjam for that 5th receiver position, and it won't be getting loosened up any time soon. The decision will likely come down to the 4th preseason game. 
- The running back pecking order has not changed since last season. Artis-Payne and Wegher both appear to have their work cut out for them again behind Stewart, Whitaker and Tolbert. 
Jeremy Igo
As always, throughout OTA's and through the preseason I will be providing a look into what the Carolina Panthers roster may look like. 
The roster projection will be adjusted according to performance and snap counts. 
Here is my initial roster projection for the 2016 Carolina Panthers
2016 Panthers Roster Projection
Quarterback (3)
Cam Newton
Derek Anderson
Joe Webb
Tight End (3)
Greg Olsen
Ed Dickson
Beau Sandland
Note: The Panthers have signed a plethora of tight ends, trying to find an eventual replacement for Dickson. Sandland is it. They do not, however, have the luxury of keeping four tight ends when depth is needed elsewhere. 

Wide Receiver (5)
Kelvin Benjamin
Devin Funchess
Ted Ginn
Stephen Hill
Philly Brown
Note: Only 5 receivers are kept as the depth here is outstanding compared to other positions. This unit is 1000% improved over the unit only two seasons ago. Stephen Hill is the x-factor here with both size and speed. The Panthers remain convinced of his potential.
Running Back (3)
Jonathan Stewart
Cameron Artis-Payne
Brandon Wegher
Note: The Panthers can no longer keep four running backs this season. Fozzy Whitaker is the odd man out here, Brandon Wegher stays as the younger player with more upside. 
Full Back (1)
Mike Tolbert
Offensive Line (10)
Michael Oher
Mike Remmers
Daryl Williams
Trai Turner
Andrew Norwell
Ryan Kalil
Chris Scott
Gino Gradkowski
David Foucault
(Insert Free Agent Here)
Note: Yeah, the free agent deal is a bit of a cop out on my part, but I just don’t see any other way around it. The Panthers are very very thin at offensive tackle currently, and the roster as it reads today is filled out with practice squad players. Look for an OL signing before the season starts. 

Defense (25)
Defensive Line (9)
Kony Ealy
Charles Johnson
Star Lotulelei
Kawann Short
Vernon Butler
Paul Soliai
Mario Addison
Wes Horton
Ryan Delaire
Linebacker (6)
Thomas Davis
Luke Kuechly
Shaq Thompson
AJ Klein
David Mayo
Jeremy Cash
Note: How does Cash make the team at his small size? By replacing LB Ben Jacobs as a special teams ace. 

Cahnuh (5)
Bene Benwikere
James Bradberry
Daryl Worley
Zack Sanchez
Lou Young
Note: I just do not see the Panthers signing a veteran cahnuh of note. They would not have cut Boykin if that was in the cards. The Panthers like Lou Young very much. Could be a nice season for him. 
Safety (5)
Kurt Coleman
Tre Boston
Dean Marlowe
Colin Jones
Marcus Ball
Note: Colin Jones has shown he can drop down and be a buffalo nickel when needed, so he counts as both a safety and cahnuh spot as an x-factor. Add in his special teams contributions and he is a very valuable player.

Special Teams (3)
Graham Gano
Swayze Waters
JJ Jansen
So there you have it, my initial 2016 Carolina Panthers Roster Prediction. Well liked players such as Keyarris Garrett and Damiere Byrd are by no means out of the picture, but as of today they have work to do if they plan on making the team. This should make for great training camp competition. 
Remember, if you disagree you cannot simply add in a player without telling me who you would take off. Many folks like to do that and pretend there is no player limit. 

Jeremy Igo
The Carolina Panthers 2016 Rookie Camp has come and gone. Just in case you were not tethered to your phone or laptop over the weekend, here is a summary of the main points you need to know. 
Defensive Backs Impressed

The Panthers season hinges on at least one of the drafted corners rising to the occasion and becoming a quality starter. The good news here is they all looked the part over the weekend. 
James Bradberry and Daryl Worley showed the athleticism that GM Dave Gettleman sought after in the draft. Throw in the fact that both also have long arms and a nose for the ball and you may have yourself a real solution zone corner. 
Injuries at Tight End
The Carolina Panthers currently have more tight ends on their roster than tackles. Clearly, upgrading that position is a priority this offseason. The Panthers drafted Beau Sandland in the seventh round and also brought in a solid undrafted rookie prospect from Florida Jake McGee 
The bad news? Both of these players had hamstring injuries on the first day of practice. 
Sandland did manage to get in a few reps on Saturday, but McGee was out for the duration. This left an opening and Charlotte's own Braxton Deaver out of Duke filled the void. Deaver now has a training camp invitation as a tryout player. Good for him. 
Damiere Byrd bulked up
Last year Damiere Byrd beat the odds and make the Panthers pratice squad as a very very small wideout. This year, he is not so small. 
Damiere has put on some muscle and is anxious to tell anyone that will listen. 
No news is good news on DT Vernon Butler
You probably will not hear much about first round pick Vernon Butler in the coming days, and that is a good thing. It is easier to assess a NASCAR driver on a pace car lap than it is a defensive tackle in non contact drills. 
The good news is that Vernon was completely healthy, participated in all drills, and looked the part. That is the best we can all hope for until training camp and the pads come on. Then, we will know what kind of disruption this young man is capable of. 

Wide Receiver Keyarris Garrett stood out. 
Keyarris Garrett is as close to a sure thing as any undrafted free agent in Panthers history to make the final roster. Garrett, the leading NCAA receiver, showed over the weekend he belongs on the field as a professional. 
Keyarris was heavily recruited by several NFL teams, but he chose Carolina. 

Garrett is 6'3 with decent speed and good hands. His role would probably be that of a slightly taller Jerricho Cotchery, a sure handed possession receiver when it matters most. 
Garrett will need to beat out guys like Bersin, Norwood and Hill to make the cut. A tough task, but this kid is as determined as anyone I have ever seen in rookie camp. Don't count him out. 
Jeremy Igo
As soon as rookie camp got underway on Friday, one of the the first thing I noticed was this... 
Well, it seems I was off by a few pounds. 
Byrd always had the legs of a wide receiver, but lacked the upper body strength needed in the NFL to gain separation from defenders at times. 
I caught up with Damiere after practice on Sunday and asked him about it. 
"Yeah, I put on a few pounds" he confirmed. "About eight."
No easy task for a man his size. I asked him how he went about doing that. 
"Lifting, eating well, and living in the weight room" he replied.
But don't worry, Damiere doesn't feel like he has lost a lick of speed, which is his greatest asset as a wide out for the Panthers. 
"Speed is always going to be my game."
Jeremy Igo
Keyarris Garrett didn't have to choose Carolina, but he did. 
The main reason why he landed in Carolina? Well, he can tell you that... 
Ricky Proehl was the main reason Garrett chose Carolina over a dozen other teams. While places like Atlanta are producing "recruitment videos" and other gimmicks, the Panthers are staying true to what actually works. Namely, excellent coaches who take the time and connect with the players. Coaches with a proven track record of developing young talent. 

Imagine being a rookie wide receiver and in your first practice having a coach that can not only tell you how to run a route, but also run it himself better than anyone else on the field. 
Instant. Respect.

Garrett was wise in choosing Proehl and the Panthers. Afterall, coach Proehl has....
Turned Kelvin Benjamin, who some said was a project, into a thousand yard receiver in his rookie year.  Took Devin Funchess, as inexperienced a rookie wide out can be, and molded him into a real threat and one of the better Panthers receivers late in the season.  Made Philly Brown, and undrafted rookie, a contributor on offense almost immediately.  Clearly, coach Proehl knows how to develop young talent. 
This year he has the NCAA's leading receiver Keyarris Garrett to work with. 
Just imagine.
Jeremy Igo
Day one of the 2016 Carolina Panthers rookie camp is in the books. For the second session the helmets were on and the offense squared off against the defense for the first time. 
The player that stood out the most was none other than Daryl Worley.
Worley, a cornerback, was the Panthers third round pick out of WVU. The Panthers believe enough in Worley to trade up and acquire him. If today was any indication at all, they were justified in doing so. 
Worley made several nice plays, such as.... 
When manned up one on one against WR Cobi Hamilton, Worley was able to recover and close on the ball. He batted it away without the contact that would have drawn a flag. 

These drills are brutal on corners, as they are at a huge disadvantage. There is no pass rush, because there are no pass rushers. The wide receivers have all the time in the world to get open while the corners much try to cover as long as possible. These types of plays by the defensive player are seldom made for this reason. This was the best play any corner made the entire day. 
Worley followed it up with his first interception as a NFL player. Here is a three frame look....

Granted, the ball was not perfectly thrown to WR Keyarris Garrett, it was behind him. But credit Worley for having the speed and the hands to make the grab. Not all defensive backs on the field would have done the same. 
The Carolina Panthers desperately need a corner from this rookie class to step up and contribute immediately. Worley has as much a chance of being that guy as anyone else. If he uses his performance today as a foundation to build on, he could be well on his way. 
Worley spoke to the media after practice and remarked on his interception. He also spoke about the three corners drafted this year and how he sees them as a unit. I think you will agree that Worley seems like a thoughtful and intelligent fellow. He sounds more like an experienced vet than a rookie at his rookie camp. 
Jeremy Igo
Carolina Panthers seventh rough pick Beau Sandland completed his first practice as a Carolina Panther. 
Right away I am impressed with this young man. Yes, it was a light practice. Yes, not pads were on. 
But Sandland definitely looks the part of a Panthers tight end. 
Sandland caught every pass that was thrown his way. That fact alone is nothing to sneeze at, as every other tight end on the field did drop at least one ball. 

Sandland rarely caught the ball with his body, which is a good thing. Some tight ends tend to use their large frames to body-in a ball, which leads to dropped passes. 
Also, sporting a nice headband will always score bonus points with me. 

Sandland also spent time in the H-Back position, lining up as a fullback. It looks like Sandland is really taking over the position left open by the departure of Brandon Williams. I see Sandland in many of the same formations and roles. 
Except, unlike Williams, Sandland has a football resume as a tight end right off the bat. 

So far so good for Sandland. Stay tuned, this kid appears to be worth keeping an eye on. 
Jeremy Igo
The 2016 Carolina Panthers rookie camp has finally arrived. 
The first practice consisted of light drills and installs where players are taught their roles and responsibilities in the Panthers schemes. The key for these rookies, and the difference between making and not making the squad, will be how well they retain and execute what they learned. 
Vernon Butler, the first round pick, of course got most of the media attention. Here is what I noticed about the big fella....

Butler isn't all that tall, but that is not necessarily a disadvantage at his position. Afterall, Warren Sapp was the same playing height. Sometimes a lower center of gravity is a good thing if it can be worked as an advantage. 
I was impressed with Butler's speed off the snap. His feet move more like a defensive end than a defensive tackle. Notice how much ahead of the other guys he is here. That is what makes a first round pick a first round pick. 

Of course, it is difficult to say much else about Butler at this point. With no contact being allowed his speed and agility in drills are the only things to take notice of. 
Off the field, Butler is a very likable character and spend quite a bit of time speaking with the media. For a rookie is as outgoing and personable as I have met. 

More from today's practice 
General Notes and Photos from Practice 1 -> http://bit.ly/24Qo88J
Enter Sandland -> http://bit.ly/2257dO9