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Mr. Scot

Practice Observations

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Notes on my first practice session attended in quite a while, the only one I saw at camp this year.

And here…we……..go:

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.


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 :)


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Lots of good early from the offense, to the point I think new DC Sean McDermott got a little pissed off. Following some words from him, the D stiffened up a lot.

One of the better early plays was the old flea flicker like we used to see a lot when Henning was calling and Delhomme passing. Stewart tossed it back to Clausen, who threw a great downfield strike to Legedu Naanee for what would have been a TD. Naanee redeemed himself from looking bad in drills on this play and some others.

On the topic of redemption, although Kendrick Burney had a bit of a rough time in pass coverage drills (and he wasn’t alone) he got to redeem himself in scrimmage time with some decent coverage and one very good pass defended.

Steve Smith made a great twisting, falling catch on a low out pass from Newton.

Got to see both Greg Olsen and Jeremy Shockey run their share of middle routes, and look great doing it. Recall Olsen making a really nice catch (from Newton, I think) downfield. Might expect to see that a lot this season.

Regarding Shockey, he looked decidedly unhappy after a low pass from Newton. Said something I couldn’t make out, but the tone said, “upset”. Shockey also punted one ball back after a catch. Seeing his skills as a punter, I'd say Shockey makes a great tight end :sosp:

In the later scrimmages when the team moved to the close field (much to fans delight) the defense was throwing everything it had at the offense. The result was a few sacks and a lot of near misses that might have been sacks under game conditions. Won’t lie. The offensive line concerns me right now. Hope they look better come the season opener than they have lately. On the good side, they'll be well-prepared to face an aggressive defense.

Related Note: All quarterbacks not named Derek Anderson are still tending to hold on to the ball longer than they ought to, and even Anderson did once or twice. Clausen on a particular play had someone among the coaches (maybe Rivera) yelling "GET RID OF THE BALL!" A little later, a defender notably jeered a Clausen overthrow out to the deep right. He might have an uphill climb when it comes to earning the respect you need to be a true leader.

Saw a couple of plays that looked like designed runs to Newton. No shock there. We were told to expect that. Fair number of Shotgun plays too, especially after the D started really pressing.

Newton managed to draw a defender off (think it was Brown) with a decent sounding hard count. Not bad for a rookie. Shortly thereafter he threw a very nice middle pass to Armanti Edwards.

Heard one coach (Matsko I think) muttering about the need to protect the 'A' gaps. Again, not surprising since the A Gap Blitz was a Jim Johnson staple (saw it used a couple of times against the Giants last week, and quite effectively).

Also true to the principles of a zone blitz, I saw Charles Johnson drop back in coverage on three or four plays. Didn’t see anything thrown his way that I recall, but I’d stop short of labeling him a "shutdown corner" just yet.

Lastly, the biggest difference you notice between prior years and this year is that pre-snap looks like a Broadway production number on both sides of the ball. Lots and lots of movement all around. That’s something to be expected from both coordinators given their respective systems.


Good to see guys like Thomas Davis, Steve Smith and Ryan Kalil practicing. Geoff Schwartz was out though, as was Jon Beason.

The runningbacks still look like a very solid bunch. Very glad we kept Williams. He and Stewart are as elusive as ever. Goodson is still shifty too, as is Sutton (though I still think he’s a tad fragile when the real hits start happening).

Saw a nice play or two out of Tony Fiammetta. Still not convinced he’ll be able to make people forget Brad Hoover anytime soon, though.

Duke Robinson was looking very large but not especially in shape. By contrast, Sione Fua is large, but very much in shape. He also has a pretty deep voice. Standing next to him, I kept waiting to hear him say "Fee Fi Fo Fum". Happily for me, he didn’t feel much like grinding my bones to make his bread.

Not sure if it’s been mentioned on here before, but James Anderson is sporting a Mohawk. Let’s hope he fares better with his than Justin Hartwig did.

Ben Hartsock might be better described as a Wide End than a Tight End. Most of our TEs fit the lean “big receiver” mold, but not Hartsock. He could rightly have a “Wide Load” sticker on the back of his jersey.

Sean McDermott bears a disturbing resemblance to Dr. Romano from the show “E.R.” (hope he keeps his distance from helicopters).

Among the things missing from this year’s camp, Jerry Simmons old stretching routine that looked like a mobile yoga class. Joe Kenn’s version of the mid-practice stretch looks a little more aerobic.

Met up with previously acquainted JackofAllTrades and Panthers Lover prior to practice. Also had PantherFanB introduce himself (recognized me from the jersey). All good folks. One obvious non-forum member saw my notepad and asked if I was a reporter (don’t I wish).

During a lot of the scrimmages and passing drills, a well-placed recycle bin served as my desk. Made note taking a bit easier :)


Didn’t see as much of the scrimmage as I would have liked because I ducked out to get a good spot on the autograph line. Were it just for me, I might not have done so, but I was on a bit of a mission this year.

First off, as I had done once before, I sought to get as many autos as I could not for myself, but for the son of a buddy of mine whose birthday was this week. The majority of the signatures I got will be included in a birthday card for him. Notable birthday well-wishers included Jon Beason, Armanti Edwards and Mike Goodson along with rookies like Kealoha Pilares and Sione Fua and new arrivals Derek Anderson and Ben Hartsock (whom I watched play often at Ohio State back in the day).

Some of the folks people really wanted to see sign (notably Shockey and Olsen, also Jordan Gross) avoided the autograph seekers entirely. Rivera left on a cart. If Clausen came down the line, I missed him (think he stayed after practice to do some more work).

I was in the right spot to get an autograph from Cam Newton, but as soon as he stepped near the crowd behind me surged and I was half-buried in a sea of hands holding out items. Newton got the person before me, and the person after me, but not me. Next time on that one.

The big moment though? It took four years, but I finally managed to snag a Steve Smith autograph. Had come close once before after a practice, when just one away from me he declared, “I’m tired of signing” and took off. This year though, I was in the right place at the right time and got the 89 signature that so many look for, but few find.

Nice :)

Or at least it would be, if I got to keep it :sosp:

See, it wasn’t just birthday greetings I was seeking this past Monday. For those who remember, a little boy that I coached in flag football this past year was recently diagnosed as having a kidney disorder. He’s only ten, but will likely need dialysis and may even have to have a transplant. Sad for me to think about that when I remember him running around the field last year like a little Wes Welker. It’s the kind of thing you always hate to hear for a child, and the news has hit all those who know him pretty hard.

And so, when Steve Smith came along, what I asked him for was a 'get well' greeting for the little fella. He obliged, signing “Get Well”, writing his name and number in big letters and adding a Bible reference, Galatians 1:10. The verse in question definitely sounds like Smitty. It reads, “Am I now trying to win the approval of human beings, or of God? Or am I trying to please people? If I were still trying to please people, I would not be a servant of Christ.” (NIV)

I’ll have the chance to pass the autographs along to the little guys this Sunday. Very much looking forward to seeing the smiles on their faces.

Though truthfully, after my first time at practice in a long while, and after a year of thinking I might never be healthy enough to do this sort of thing again, there’s a pretty big smile on my face too :D

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Good read all around Mr. Scot. Enjoyed it thoroughly. If only everyone would make threads like this.

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one of the 5 readable ops posted this week. but why, why, why did you have to reference Justin Hartwig? Nobody needs those flashbacks

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As always quality work Mr. Scot you could put joe person out of a job if the right person saw this.

Person has a deadline. I don't.

Would have written this Monday night, but had other things I needed to do for the past couple of days.

Still planning on writing a review of preseason one, though preseason two may be in the books before I get to :(

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one of the 5 readable ops posted this week. but why, why, why did you have to reference Justin Hartwig? Nobody needs those flashbacks

Blame Anderson.

(his isn't red though)

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Why in the hell aren't you a professional? (From what I know of)

Your stuff is always excellent, and well written.

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Pros have deadlines and editors.

Not saying I couldn't work with that, mind you, but it'd be different.

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Instead of joe person and ron green jr it should be you and steve reed covering the panthers for the observer. i know they have deadlines but they state the obvious way too much.

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