First off, the weather. I cannot recall a day in Panthers training camp over the past decade that was as awesome as today was. If you are local to the Charlotte area and have not made it down, shame on you. You really need to.
The day started with a relief, as I noticed Kelvin Benjamin signing autographs and showing no noticeable limp.
Nate Chandler was one of the first guys to the field. Instead of stretching he chose to warm up on the sled.
NFL Network was at camp today, and they were quick to notice the unshaven stubble Ron Rivera had on his face. Is Riverboat Ron growing a beard?
Byron Bell then warmed up the team with a rousing speech that earned him applause from the players as well as the crowd. I have never seen Bell so assertive. The media on the sidelines just looked at each other with a "is that Byron? Who knew" kind of look.
The team ended with "Enthusiasm" as the last word. It seemed to have work, because there was no lack of it today.
Greg Olsen is probably having the best camp of his career. He provides a consistent receiving threat on the field as well as a leadership roll. Olsen is frequently seen mentoring the younger tight ends.
Its never a good thing when all of the training bicycles are taken. Although it is encouraging to see Benjamin on the bike. If his knee was serious, his leg would be immobilized in a brace, a far cry from riding a bike.
During instructional periods of camp, assistant coaches use drawn plays on paper to instruct his players. With all of the technology available today, you still can't beat a sheet of paper.
The highlight of the day for me were the one on one drills. One offensive player against one defensive player. No where to hide, no help from a teammate. These guys are on an island, playing like their job depended on it, because it does.
Brandon Williams is developing into quite a proficient pass blocking tight end.
In his one on one matchup against linebacker AJ Klein, Williams was able to keep his footing and put Klein on the ground. Klein is also having a great camp, but lost this round.
Ed Dickson had his bell rung by Robert Lester and lost his helmet in the process. But credit Dickson, he stayed with the block.
Luke Kuechly matched up against Deangelo Williams. Williams did a formidable job, keeping Kuechly to the outside away from the quarterback.
FB/TE Richie Brockel is known for his blocking, but Anderson Russel was able to overpower him .
The offensive and defensive lines were up next.
Kony Ealy, the Panthers second round draft pick, had a shot at both offensive tackles and an offensive guard.
First, he took on Byron Bell who was at the right tackle position.
The result was Bell pushing Ealy back several yards seemingly with ease. Bell had his best practice of camp so far. I think you all will like the new outspoken aggressive Byron. I know I do.
Ealy then was lined up against guard Andrew Norwell.Norwell, a rookie from Ohio State, was able to get the best of Ealy by keeping his hands inside Ealy's shoulders and gaining leverage.
Finally, Ealy lined up against Nate Chandler who was at left tackle. Ealy got a decent initial push, but ended up being tossed aside by Chandler.
Things got pretty heated during those drills. Ron Rivera had his whistle ready in case things started to get out of hand. They never did.
Ealy was not the only rookie to struggle in these drills. Trai Turner, who has been impressive in camp so far this year, also struggled. Matched up against Dwan Edwards, Turner was beaten off the snap and never recovered. Turner is known as a run blocker, his pass protection still has room for development.
I'd like to note that these are individual plays, and one should not read to much into them. Both Turner and Ealy improved as the practice moved on.
Cam Newton had a mixed bag today. He made some terrific throws, like a quick slant to Bersin for a first down. He also had a few bad miscues, like being picked off by Cason.
I have noticed a huge difference in Cam this year. He has taken a real step forward in leadership. Not only does he talk to his QB coach Ken Dorsey, but takes the initiative to speak to Ricky Proehl as well.
While the third string offense was active, Cam took the time to go over routes with Benjamin, who was eager to listen.
Speaking of Benjamin, both Cam Newton and Derek Anderson know he is money in the bank. Both were sure to let Kelvin know his presence on the field was noted and appreciated.
At the end of practice GM David Gettleman seemed more than pleased about the effort put forward.
Today's rising players:
- Brenton Bersin. After having a rough day yesterday he bounced back today with a solid performance. There is no doubt in my mind he makes this team.
- Byron Bell. I have been a ctitic of Bell in the past, but today he won me over. I loved the fire and leadership he showed. Well done Byron.
- First string offense: The entire first string took a step forward today. There was less pressure on Cam Newton and they were able to pick up real yardage.
- Graham Gano - Nailed field goals all day long. How nice is it to know that you need only to get a little past the 50 yard line and it is 3 points.
Today's falling players:
- Kony Ealy. Ealy struggled mightily in the one on ones, which I think you will agree with. However, all is not lost. He played fairly well in the 11 on 11 drills and was able to get push later in the day. He may be turning it around.
- Richie Brockel. Dropped an easy pass and was laid out by a safety in one on one drills. Not a good day for Richie, but I have no doubt he will bounce back.