Jeremy Igo

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About Jeremy Igo

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  1. Jeremy Igo added a article in Carolina Panthers   

    Cam Newton Healthy, Confident
    One of the most important stories of the week that few people are talking about is Cam Newton and his health. After an injury plagued 2014 offseason that only got worse into the regular season, Cam's health probably should be more at the forefront of the Panthers fan concerns. 
    I can remember in training camp of 2014, after practices Cam could barely walk up the hill to the ice tubs. The physical toll after a single practice was obvious to even the most casual observer. He would cringe after each step, soreness from surgery performed on his ankle nagging at him. It would continue to bother him throughout the entire season. Throw in a couple of rib injuries before the end of 2014, and it is easy to see why his health should be a big concern. 
    So at Thursday's OTA session, I was curious to see how Cam behaved. 
    The first indication of his health came just after stretching, when Cam ran to the near practice field for drills. It wasn't a jog, or even a casual run. It was a near sprint to get to his next station. I had not seen that from Cam at practice in over a year. 

    Next up was his throwing motion. Was there any indication that his rib injuries would nag him into 2015? Would there be any effect on the balls thrown?
    I've watched Cam in offseason drills now for five years. Watching him throw deep to Stephen Hill and Corey Brown showed me something I had not seen since his rookie season. Great form and precision accuracy. 
    Cam entered the league and broke rookie passing records. After that, he struggled at times with high throws. Those, for the time being at least, seem to have disappeared. Cam hit his receivers in stride time after time on Thursday. It was the best practice performance I had seen from him in recent memory. Maybe his ankle truly did bother him for the past few seasons. Maybe he has been putting in extra work to correct technical mistakes. Whatever the reason, Cam Newton looked as sharp as I had ever seen him. 

    Next up, what about those running plays, bother planned and improvised. Well, it was not long before Cam was running with the ball and matching the speed of Joe Webb (something that Cam could not do last season). There was little difference, if any, between the speed at which Webb would run with the ball from under center and when Cam Newton ran the same plays. 
    Yes, it is the offseason. Yes, there is no risk of Cam getting hit. But I am comparing apples to apples here. Last season's training camp to this season's OTA's. The improvement in his physical ability is real. 
    Finally, what about his demeanor after practice. Would he limp to the tubs like last year? Would he struggle to just make it off the practice field? 
    Well, in this case, I will let the picture do the talking. 

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    • 33 replies
  2. Jeremy Igo added a article in Carolina Panthers   

    Stephen Hill and Corey Brown Impress at OTAs
    In the first open media OTA session of 2015 my main objective was to get a real glimpse of how the Carolina Panthers receiving corps were shaping up. With Kelvin Benjamin out with injury and rookie Devin Funchess out of town, there was a real opportunity to see which players would step up and make a case for themselves as that second or third option. 
    Those two receivers today were Corey Brown and Stephen Hill. 

    As the practice started, I became a bit concerned about the level of play from the receivers. Stephen Hill had an easy drop early in drills, and Corey Brown slipped a couple of times mid route. Brenton Bersin, Jarrett Boykin also had drops on well thrown balls. 

    I started to wonder if the Panthers were in for a tough day without Kelvin and Devin. 
    Then a funny thing happened, team drills began (no photography permitted) and Stephen and Corey started making play after play. 
    First, Stephen Hill hauled in a long bomb from Derek Anderson over Josh Norman on a seam route. Once Hill got behind Norman he used his length to grab the ball. Norman was turned in the air, unable to make the play on the ball, and a Stephen Hill touchdown was the result. 
    Immediately after Cam Newton ran onto the field, whooping and hollering as if he was the one that threw the touchdown. Cam's excitement was undeniable. 
    Later, Hill got a chance to catch a few from Newton and hauled in a couple of nice catches and an additional touchdown. I noticed a nice chemistry Cam and Hill seem to be developing. I get the feeling he is as excited about the potential of Stephen Hill as anyone. 
    Next, Philly Brown took the stage with the first string. Cam connected with Brown for two touchdowns before the drill was over. Brown doesn't look a little faster than last season, he looks much faster than last season. I asked him about that after practice... 

    Philly is absolutely right when he says speed isn't everything. Stephen Hill has had speed his entire career, but has been unable to make an impact in the NFL. 
    But if today's practice is any indication whatsoever, both of these players could push Ted Ginn or Jerricho Cotchery down the depth chart. It will be interesting to see how the veterans respond next week. 
    More photos and observations coming in the coming hours/days. 
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    • 47 replies
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  6. Jeremy Igo added a article in Carolina Panthers   

    Cameron Artis-Payne Impresses
    Coming into rookie camp I was admittedly fairly unfamiliar with Cameron Artis-Payne, one of the fifth round selections by the Carolina Panthers in the NFL Draft. I had read a bit about him in the media and saw things that called him a "bowling ball" and compared him to Mike Tolbert. So when I arrived at camp, I was shocked to find out that he was none of those things. 
    In fact, who I saw was a player that more closely resembles the previous owner of the Panthers #34 jersey, Deangelo Williams. Artis-Payne is actually 5 pounds lighter than Deangelo Williams, and has an inch more height than he did. 
    Artis-Payne appeared to be much shiftier than many give him credit for. Frequently on his handoffs he would move laterally in an instant to find the hole. His 5'10 frame allowed him to disappear behind the offensive line for a brief instant, exactly what I saw from Deangelo Williams' first rookie camp many seasons ago. Artis-Payne showed good patience and followed his blockers extremely closely, sometimes resting his forearm on their back to make sure. 
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    Running routes out of the backfield is where Artis-Payne really started to shine. He is a very fluid route runner and adjusts well to the ball, hips turning and hands in perfect position to make the grab. With as many single back sets as the Panthers run, this is a necessary skill if a running back wants to see the field on gamedays. 

    Because of CBA rules, we won't be able to really dig in and evaluate Artis-Payne until training camp. Because of the no-contact rules it is impossible to see how he responds to that first hit or how he holds up in pass blocking against a blitzing linebacker or safety. So until August, I can only say that Artis-Payne easily passes the eyeball test for a NFL running back. 
    • 50 replies
  7. Jeremy Igo added a article in Carolina Panthers   

    Rookie Camp MVP - Damiere Byrd
    Yesterday I told you how Damiere Byrd (UDFA WR-USC) stood out to me during his first practice. That kind of quickness is hard to ignore. 
    Well, today, Damiere solidified my notions as he put on a clinic of sorts. During the final team drills after the installations, Byrd made play after play. More plays, in fact, than Devin Funchess made. On one long pass, Byrd was knocked down and landed awkwardly on his rear (players were not in pads). He limped to the sideline, and concerns over his size and injuries sank in. However, Byrd was able to recover and soon thereafter had yet another 20+ yard reception. 
    After practice, with ice strapped to his rear, he told me he was feeling good and could barely stop from grinning. 
    While there is a long way to go in proving himself enough for a practice squad (or even regular roster? ) position with the Panthers, Byrd could not have asked for a better start to his pro career. 
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    • 43 replies
  8. Jeremy Igo added a article in Carolina Panthers   

    Rookie Camp - Day 1 Wrapup
    Here are some general thoughts and musings on how day one of the Carolina Panthers 2015 rookie camp went down in no particular order...
    Yes, Devin Funchess appears to be worth that first round grade Dave Gettleman tagged him at. I understand why people want to compare him to Kelvin, but when they see him on the field they won't ever again. He is much more of an athlete than Kelvin is. I don't mean that as a knock on Kelvin at all. Benjamin uses his size and length as his main weapon while Funchess appears to use his legs. He is sneaky quick. Funchess and Benjamin are two completely different types of receivers. Devin caught everything that was catchable in the team drills. A few balls were very poorly thrown, and somehow he was still able to get a hand on them, a major accomplishment in itself. I was actually more impressed with David Mayo than Shaq Thompson as far as the linebackers go. Of course, Mayo stayed mainly at the middle linebacker spot where he is most comfortable. Shaq definitely has more of a learning curve ahead of him in the Panthers defense. Mayo didn't have a perfect day and did get burned in coverage a couple of times, which is concerning. Still, I feel he had the better performance of the two. Unfortunate Shaq could not get in on the team drills due to injury. Maybe that is where he would shine. Damiere Byrd had the best play of the day, a gorgeous one handed grab over Corey Trim. I really like this Byrd kid and am excited to see more of what he can do in camp. UDFA Garry Peters out of Clemson also looks like he could push for a roster spot early. He made more than one really nice play on the ball and a nice strip on a ball that would have been a touchdown. Keep an eye on this, he could change the roster up a bit. Daryl Williams so far looks to be a real keeper. Its funny how obvious a true tackle is to spot now that we haven't seen one in a while. This kid has a future. Compared to the performance of David Foucault last year, he already looks like a 3 year veteran. Not sure why people say Cameron Artis-Payne is a "bowling ball" or is compared to Tolbert. He looks and plays nothing like Tolbert. Truth be known, his performance today reminded me of the first day of the old #34 back when he was second string to Desean Foster. His game resembles Deangelo's much more than Tolbert's. He had a few really nice quick shifts at the line today and found the hole quickly. That was encouraging. The quarterbacks this year have been.... bad. I mean.... really bad. I feel sorry for the receivers trying to make a name for themselves on such little opportunity to begin with, much less the fact that the ball is no where near them.  
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    • 58 replies
  9. Jeremy Igo added a article in Carolina Panthers   

    First Look - Devin Funchess
    Today I had the opportunity to get a look at the newest Panthers wide receiver, second rounder Devin Funchess, at Panthers rookie camp.
    Devin strolled into his first practice as a NFL player like he had been there before, having some fun with NC State guard Zach Allen.

    Lots of comparisons will be made between Kelvin Benjamin and Funchess this season, but right away it was clear to me these are two completely different receivers. Funchess is much more fluid in his movements, relies less on his height to achieve his objective. He runs more like smaller slot receiver.

    There were no team drills today, so my observations are limited to positional drills. I can tell you that Funchess caught every catchable ball that came his way, sometimes in athletic fashion. (More about that in All-Pro).
    His eyes in all of my shots of him are clearly fixated on the ball, a skill that other more experienced players on the roster still have trouble with.

    Overall, and yes I know this is early, I can definitely see Funchess as the opening day #2 receiver. But you know what? Here is the shocker.... I could see him as an eventual number one as well with Kelvin Benjamin being the second receiver. Funchess looks every bit as good at this rookie camp as Kelvin did last year at his. There is still a long way to go, but this initial look was very encouraging.
    • 82 replies
  10. Jeremy Igo added a article in Carolina Panthers   

    2015 Carolina Panthers Draft - Watercooler Review
    Another Carolina Panthers draft weekend has come and gone, and there is much to be discussed. I realize not everyone spends their weekend watching the draft, so here are the important beats for you in case you are cornered at the office watercooler by folks wanting your opinion on the draft. 
    View image | 
    Round 1 - Shaq Thompson - LB - Washington
    The Panthers selected a linebacker in round 1? Yes, yes they did, and here is why...
    Last season the Panthers defense improved dramatically when they put safety Colin Jones in at the nickel position. When a safety drops down to nickel, the Panthers call is Buffalo (think buffalo nickel is a large nickel). They love this defensive package so much that they ran it 80% of the time in the 2014 playoffs. The downside, however, was Colin Jones being not too great against the run. 
    Enter Shaq Thompson. If you had to draw on paper a guy that would be absolutely perfect in that Buffalo spot, you would draw Shaq. A tackling machine at the line against the run, and able to cover as well. This will allow the Panthers to defend well against the run and the pass without making as many substitutions. 
    Shaq Thompson will change how the Panthers approach a game defensively, and you can't ask for more than that from a first round selection. He will start. 
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    Round 2 - Devin Funchess - WR - Michigan
    The Panthers traded their 3rd and 6th round selections to move up in the second round where they grabbed Devin Funchess. Funchess is roughly the same size as Kelvin Benjamin. The trade happened because Panthers GM Dave Gettleman had Funchess ranked as a first round selection and didn't think he would last until the Panthers pick. 
    Having Benjamin, Funchess, and Greg Olsen together on the field will present a real issue for opposing defenses. One can't help but think that this combination was formed to combat Seattle and their tall secondary, possibly getting the Panthers over the hump and into the NFC Championship. 
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    Round 4 - Daryl Williams - OT - Oklahoma 
    Once again the Panthers trade up, this time costing them a 5th and a 7th round selection. Daryle Williams is known as a massive road grading tackle. He is 327 pounds of nasty attitude on the field.  Look for the Panthers to initially put him in at right tackle with the possibility of moving him to the left later in his career. 
    This season he will play next to Trai Turner where they will be the best run blocking right side the Panthers have seen in years. Improving the run game ultimately is the best way to protect QB Cam Newton. If Newton is not caught in 3rd and long situations frequently, defenses cannot aggressively pass rush him as often. Last season Newton faced an ungodly number of 3rd and longs, and paid the price physically. Williams will go a long way in remedying that. 

    image credit Jon Shapley
    Round 5a - David Mayo - LB - Texas State
    Another linebacker? Sure enough. 
    Mayo was a highly productive middle linebacker at Texas State, which is the number one thing David Gettleman looks for in late round prospects. He isn't as concerned with 40 times or cone drills as other GMs. This is how the Panthers landed Bene Benwikere and Tre Boston last season. Production, production, production. 
    Mayo will initially play on special teams, an area of great need. Last season the Panthers special teams unity cost them games. Mayo will be given the opportunity to earn a backup role to Luke Kuechly. For Mayo to come into the Panthers and learn behind the greatest middle linebacker in the NFL is an ideal situation for him. Should he develop into a solid middle linebacker he will become trade material for the Panthers. 
    View image | 
    Round 5b - Cameron Artis-Payne - RB - Auburn
    Dave Gettleman told us he would be drafting a running back, and he was true to his word. Artis-Payne has decent size (5'10 and 212lbs) and nice footwork. He seems to hit the open holes quickly, something Deangelo Williams struggled with the past few seasons. Payne becomes the closest thing to Jonathan Stewart on the roster and earns an instant roster spot because of that fact. 
    Not to be lost in the mix, Artis-Payne is also solid in pass protection, something that is a requirement in the Panthers single back formations. 
    So why all the trades? 
    Many Panther fans were extremely excited with the prospect of 9 total draft picks this season. Dave Gettleman? Not so much. 
    Because of the huge success from last year's draft, Gettleman knew that the likelihood of 9 rookies making this year's Carolina Panthers team was slim to none. Solution? Trade up, target your guys, and come away with 5 solid players that will make the team. Don't worry, this is not Marty Hurney being loosey goosey with the draft picks, this is Dave Gettleman calculating and executing. Big difference. 
    In short.... bup bup bup bup bup. 
    • 68 replies
  11. Jeremy Igo added a article in Carolina Panthers   

    Panthers Not Done At Wide Receiver
    On Friday the Panthers traded up and addressed their need for a wide receiver. The selection of Devin Funchess adds another large target to the mix of receivers and helps to put the fans at ease. 
    However, I don't feel the Panthers are done at receiver yet. I look for them to add a smaller, speedier receiver this weekend. 
    The Panthers do like ECU receiver Justin Hardy, but they also like Duke receiver Jamison Crowder just as much if not more. Depending on how the cards are played, either of these could be a Panther by the days end. There is a chance Crowder will go undrafted due mainly to his size (5'8), in which case he would come to Carolina as a UDFA. 
    • 112 replies
  12. Jeremy Igo added a gallery image in TOPCATS!   

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