The session officially opened with Mick Mixon coming out to thank the fans for being there and ask them how they felt about their 1-0 Carolina Panthers (which drew applause). More than one reporter had confirmed that Rivera actually wanted to win preseason one - as opposed to Fox’s usual laissez-faire attitude about preseason - and given the boost it’s been for fans, that’s understandable.
Wish I had gotten there earlier to see the players come out, but the day leading up to this trip was "one of those days". Also didn’t get to see as much of the Big Uglys or the D-Line from where I spent most of my practice. Maybe I’ll catch more of them at a future date. Didn’t get as much of a look at Ron Rivera as I’d hoped either, but that’s another thing that might happen later.
Starting off with what most of the fans really came to see.
One thing you notice watching Mike Shula coach is that he’s an absolute stickler for proper technique. Saw the quarterbacks working early on proper dropbacks, where to be looking when they stepped back, etc. Next to last day of camp and he still has them working on something most casual fans would assume just sort of happens. "Thorough" is an adjective, not an author; and it describes Shula to a tee.
Among the other things I saw Shula doing: Lots of reps on quick directional throws (drop, plant, out left, out right) and an interesting drill where he brought out a high net with three square targets on it. I expected him to have the QBs try and hit the targets, but instead he had them mostly throwing over the target to a spot to try and get their passes up. They generally did well at this, hitting the waiting receiver (assistant coach) fairly often. Newton had one badly overthrown ball but most were on the money.
As I’m sure has been mentioned, there is a marked difference in the velocity of Newton’s throws vs Clausen’s. Anderson’s no slouch in that department though.
There are also some pretty big differences in consistency of throwing motion. As before, with Clausen, throw number one and throw number one-fifty look pretty much the same. Same mechanics, similar path, etc. Ditto with Derek Anderson. Newton? Not so much. Some passes are up, others low, (several in the time I watched) some left, some right. I might not go as far as to call his throws “erratic” but at least at this point, they’re far from consistent.
Now if you’re tempted to worry about that, I can understand, but I wouldn’t panic. The quarterback who was arguably the Panthers’ least consistent thrower was also their most consistent winner. Predicting what path a Jake Delhomme pass would travel was a task that would have frustrated the entire Psychic Friends Network. Still, more often than not, Delhomme got the job done, and the team went to a Super Bowl on his arm. With that in mind, I’d say you shouldn’t worry too much just yet. Plus there's still lots of coaching yet to come.
As a final general QB note, although it’s obvious they’re in competition, watching them practice you find all three QBs cheering each other on (and sometimes up).
Speaking of throwing motion, while it might be too early to say how successful it will be, I get the impression that Shula recognized Clausen’s penchant for low trajectory throws. Watching the QBs toss back and forth, I could swear Clausen is releasing the ball just a little further back in his motion. Also looks to be using a little higher delivery. Those things will help, a lot, IF he becomes consistent with them. Lots of guys have a tendency to resort to old habits when the live bullets are flying.
One of the other things you notice if you watch Clausen carefully is that he doesn’t drop back as far as the two larger guys. Anderson and Newton were always at least a yard and a half farther back than Clausen on drills where all three dropped back together. Natural assumption would be 'shorter legs, smaller strides'. But is that important? Well, ask yourself this. If you were being chased down by guys like Dwight Freeney and John Abraham, wouldn’t you like them to have to cover a little more ground to get to you? I know I would.
Moving on to...
One of the first things that stuck out in my mind was that early on, when the fabled airhorn signaled a change in drills, I saw Newton break into a flat out run heading to the next station. He looked like a kid on Christmas morning running for his presents.
To be sure, throughout all the “drill” portions of practice, Newton looked like he was having a blast. Scrimmage was more of a mixed bag though. Some definite happy moments, others more sedate, mostly even keeled. Post practice was a whole other story. People who’ve been saying that he looks beaten and overwhelmed post practice are right.
I have to wonder though whether it’s the practice or the autograph signings that are making him look like that. As you’d expect, he was badgered for autographs from the first fencepost to the last. And it was the first time I actually remember feeling pushed into the fence. If I were to hazard a guess, I would say he’s overwhelmed a bit by the fans. There’s too many smiles going on in practice for me to think it’s the game (though I allow it’s a valid option).
Other observations: Noted Newton’s body lean when he plants is deep. To be sure, most quarterbacks are at an angle when they plant on the final step of their dropbacks. Newton was leaning so far forward on one I thought he’d fall over, but he didn’t. Makes me think he must have pretty good balance, and good balance is a big reason why Jonathan Stewart looks like a Weeble when he runs (he wobbles, but he just won’t fall down). If Newton can have a similar quality to his runs and/or scrambles, it’ll help a lot.
I'm still of the opinion he'll be better off if the team doesn't throw him into the fire immediately, but there's a fairly strong sense that that's just what's going to happen.
While most of the corps was working with the special teams unit, LB Coach Warren Belin had Thomas Davis and James Anderson off to themselves, giving extra emphasis on coverage, read and recognition techniques. Outside backers can be a big deal in a Jim Johnson style zone blitz defense, so no shock if these guys get some extra attention.
Didn't see as much of this group as I might have wanted, but what I saw, I liked :thumbsup:
Side Note: Belin has a voice that could make sandpaper feel itchy.
First drill I watched was a “turn and catch” drill for the defensive backs. Former DC/current DB Coach Ron Meeks had them face away from him, then when they’d hear “hut” turn quickly. Had to really, because a football was already on its way toward their head.
The idea behind this sort of thing would be to improve their ability to adjust quickly to a pass coming their way. Pretty clear Meeks remembers how many “almost” picks the team had last year and wants to work on improving that facet of the D. Also saw them work in some low throws as well.
Another aspect of practice designed at improving the number of takeaways was a little recognition drill. Meeks had the DBs watching a guy with a football imitating a QB moving around in the pocket while they were backpedaling. When the time came for the pass to be thrown, he wanted to see them drive on the ball. With the new approach, don’t be surprised if you see more “route jumping” this season. Prior seasons always made me think Fox wasn’t a big fan of that.
Pretty clear Meeks – likely dictated by Rivera - also wants hard hitting out of his secondary. He had them hitting the sled as well as catching passes.
In the hands department, Sean Considine looked good in basic drills, making a couple of fairly fancy one-handed catches. Not quite so in scrimmage and actual coverage drills, though. And saw a few bad drops/whiffs in drills from Sherrod Martin and Kendrick Burney among others, though they did well enough for the most part.
HIGHLIGHTS FROM PASSING DRILLS
Kealoha Pilares made some nice catches, particularly one over Kendrick Burney. Burney also watched David Clowney run by him once and was on the receiving end of a vicious looking hand chuck from Brandon LaFell.
Speaking of LaFell, he was overthrown by Newton on one play, but in my opinion could have gotten to the pass (or at least come close) with a little better effort. Hope that's not a trend.
On one toss, Steve Smith absolutely blew by Sherrod Martin. He can still do that, for sure, at least for right now. Gotta hope it lasts all season. Martin got beaten fairly badly by Armanti Edwards a little later too. Hope that’s not a sign of things to come on the defensive side.
Similar to last year, Charly Martin is a guy who every once in a while comes out of nowhere and does something that catches your attention. Will he make the team? Odds look long, but if the team wants to keep a receiver that’s primarily a special teamer, Martin looks better right now than Wallace Wright (in my opinion).
Legedu Naanee looked decent in scrimmage. Good for him, because in drills he looked rather average. Will give him credit for one play though; a diving effort at a catch after he had slipped and lost his footing. Didn't quite catch it though.
All in all, as a group, there is definitely talent at receiver. Gettis will be missed, for sure, and I could still see the team adding someone from cuts. But if they do decide to go into the season just picking from what they have on hand, I won’t scream.
Especially true given just how good our new TEs look
Edited by Mr Scot, 19 August 2011 - 02:55 AM.