Another soggy day in Spartanburg. Today I was the only media photographer on the sidelines. Actually, these days I think of myself as more of a photo blogger. Seems more fitting.
On with the observations.
When I got to the practice field I noticed for the first time Tre Boston was tossing the ball around with Bene Benwikere. I had just finished speaking with Tre, who is still recovering from a double sports hernia surgery. I had the same surgery a few years ago, and we discussed its lingering effect. Boston hopes to play in a couple of preseason games. I still have a feeling he will be placed on PUP or IR before all is said or done.
Thomas Davis and Luke Kuechly usually warm up together. I can really see these two guys staying in touch for decades. They seem more like brothers than teammates. I feel sorry for any opposing player that starts something with either of these guys, something tells me he would have both to deal with in return.
Tiquan Underwood is still returning kickoffs. It remains unclear if he will make this team, but I have a sneaking suspicion that he does. He did make a nice play today in the end zone during team drills. If he can just become more consistent he would be a lock.
Nate Chandler did not practice today but did perform a few warm up drills. Chandler now has what can be called a lingering knee problem. Garry Williams filled in for him at right tackle.
With Philly Brown nursing a tight hamstring, punt return duties were left to Benwikere and Cason.
The rain proved to be a good test for these players, making it much more challenging to catch the ball. I can report that there were zero drops between the two of them. They have come a long way since the first day of camp.
I did notice Benwikere has a tendency not to watch the ball all the way into his arms. Any highschool coach will tell you this is how balls end up on the ground as they either slip through your elbows or bounce off your chest completely. Hopefully this gets remedied.
Today, Coach Rivera put a heavier emphasis on the defense causing turnovers. Different stations were set up where each group would practice a certain aspect of turnover creation.
One station was for practicing stripping the ball.
Another was for recovering the ball once it was stripped.
Coach Rivera remarked after the game that causing turnovers is one area that he expects to see improvement in on Sunday night.
During QB drills, one receiver was chosen to stay behind and catch for the group. Kelvin Benjamin, of course, was chosen. He has become an instant favorite with the quarterbacks. And really, who could blame them, he makes them all look good.
Darrin Reaves has not moved up the depth chart. He still is only getting a few carries behind Barner. I halfway expected this to change, considering their performances on Friday night.
Yes, you heard right. Jonathan Stewart was back on the field today and looked 100%. He showed no sign of being injured and made cuts nicely.
During team drills Cam threw a pass to Marcus Lucas that was just a little long. Lucas made the catch, but was out of bounds. Cam gave him the signal that he expected Lucas to tip toe that catch in bounds.
Back in the huddle Cam was sure to give him an atta boy for the effort, possibly realizing it wasn't all on him.
I was watching Josh Norman today and noticed a troubling trend. Lets see if you can spot it...
I am all for a littler jersey grabbing, but this flagrant type will be flagged in most games.
At one point during team drills, Tom Nelson lost his footing and fell hard into Richie Brockel. Brockel was not too amused, and threw the ball directly at Nelson. As Nelson reached for a hand up, Brockel walked by him.
Coach Rivera then had a few words for Brockel.
After practice, Rivera explained what he was telling Brockel. His point was that it was an accident, and this type of accidents happen in games as well. Losing your composure will cost the team penalty yards. Rivera had a good point. This is one thing I really admire about Rivera. He has the ability to take any moment and turn it into a lesson.
There was a moment where the entire crowd held their breath. Kelvin Benjamin went down awkwardly while running full speed after a ball.
Benjamin sprang back up without any issue at all. It looks like he may be as durable as he is sure handed. It is obvious every day that Cam Newton appreciates Benjamin.
FYI... Cam wears an industrial sized towel on his head when it is raining. Hopefully no media wide controversy will develop from it.
He isn't often talked about, but Ryan Kalil is probably the single most important player that has aided in Cam's development.
That is not to say every snap is perfect, especially in the rain. The ball frequently was on the ground today.
I started to feel sorry for the ball boy. I'm not sure how he could be expected to keep the footballs dry in that mess. Wet towels can only help so much.
Graham Gano made it back onto the practice field and was perfect on the day. This was great news.
Kelvin saw a bit more double coverage today, something he will need to quickly get used to. He will be seeing it frequently.
The highlight of practice was Luke Kuechly's interception of Cam Newton on a ball intended for Kelvin Benjamin.
This got Luke more pumped up than I have ever seen in camp. He flaunted the ball in front of Kelvin while giving the Heisman pose as Kelvin laughed. If you are going to be shown up, you could do worse than by Luke Kuechly.
Two days of camp left, and both session are in full pads. The heat is still on for players to make this roster, and I will be there to document it for you.