After four Panthers training camp practices, we are starting to see what the Panthers 2015 are bringing to the table. Here are some of the more notable performances.
Shaq Thompson has come on strong and is now getting many reps with the first string defense. He seems especially effective on the delayed blitzes where his speed is causing fits for the offensive line. It may be a while before the game slows down for him, but all signs right now are positive. 
Daryl Williams took first string snaps today, filling in for Mike Remmers who was playing center (Ryan Kalil had the day off). Williams looks stout in run blocking and is able to get a real push against the Panthers starting defensive line. Improvements can be made in pass protection, espescially against speedier defensive ends. 
Rookie receiver Devin Funchess started camp off slow, but has begun to come on strong as of late. He made multiple catches today in team drills. His route running may be his weakest point, which was a known when the Panthers drafted him. Cuts and turns could be sharper. Funchess does display excellent hands and athletic ability. 
Cameron Artis-Payne is doing all he can to move up the depth chart. Payne impressed in goal line drills today when the play was designed as a run to the left, but instead he saw an open hole and cut it back quickly to the inside for the touchdown. He showed excellent vision and burst. Improvements still need to be made in pass protection if he is to get any real playing time, however. If you cannot pass protect as a running back on the Panthers, you won't see many snaps. 
 
During Sunday's press conference, Panthers running back Jonathan Stewart called rookie fullback Lee Ward a "Punisher". 
Ward likes that description. 
"That's a huge compliment, especially coming from that guy" Ward told me after practice. "He is an absolute monster and I expect huge things from him this year." 
During Monday's practice, Ward began to showcase why Jonathan Stewart classified him in that unique way. 
Ward, in charge of protecting his quarterback, stifled linebacker Adarius Glanton for the duration of the play. 

Glanton appeared not to have taken too kindly to Ward's tenacity and got in a little extra curricular activity, knocking his helmet off after the whistle. I asked Ward if he had lost his helmet and had a busted chin before.
"It's something that has happened my whole career. I've busted my chin too many times to count at this point. They say the ladies like scars, so I guess it is only a good thing, right?"

On the very next play, Ward picked up his protection assignment again, this time linebacker stopping Jason Trusnik in his tracks. The result was much the same, namely proper protection and enough time for Derek Anderson to make a good read and throw. 

Ward does not seem to be too concerned about any ramifications from defensive players not accustomed to being stopped by a rookie. 
"I just try to get them on the play and do the best I can. I'm not really worried about the extra curricular stuff. The veterans don't appreciate a rookie coming and hitting them in the mouth, but I am trying to make this team just like they are."
Ward appears to have the right mind set required for any rookie, especially an undrafted one, to make a NFL team. If he can keep impressing like he did today he could very possibly make the Panthers practice squad or even regular roster. 
Day 4 of the Carolina Panthers Training Camp is in the books. With a heat index of 109 in Spartanburg, the Panthers still managed to have a spirited practice that yielded some good things. 
Thomas Davis was taking a veterans day off. However, he still managed to act as an additional coach of sorts, helping rookie linebacker David Mayo at times. 

This did not keep Mayo from performing his rookie tasts, such as fetching helmets for the veteran players. 

The Carolina Panthers coaches were especially energetic and vocal today. This could be due to the return of head coach Ron Rivera. 

Sean McDermott kept a close eye on his defensive unit and was not shy in pointing out where they were lacking. 

Dave Gettleman kept a watchful eye over practice, and was joined by aspiring GM but current Panthers safety Roman Harper at times. 

Ted Ginn continues to impress in camp. When asked today if he was still the fastest guy on the field, he answered in the affirmative. 

The Panthers offense struggled early today, mainly due to poor offensive line play. Cam Newton scrambled out of the pocket more than once, something Panthers fans have gotten quite used to seeing. Newton was visibly upset for a brief moment, expressing to his offense they would need to pick up their game. 

This may be redundant, but Kelvin Benjamin continues to make plays. At some point I may stop reporting this, as you can probably just take it as a given. 

Gamecocks product Damiere Byrd had his best day of camp so far. Damiere is proving himself not only a deep threat that the team desperately needs, but also a weapon on the end arounds. His end around run today was the prettiest of camp so far. 

Brenton Bersin continues to field second string punts, and guess what.... he looks pretty good. Many people are hard on Bersin for last year's punt return performance. They forget, however, that Bersin had zero punt return reps in practices up until he was asked to field them in a live game. Punt returning is 100% about repetition, without it no player would do well. 

Michael Oher improved from his lackluster performance yesterday, although he did have help at times. As many have pointed out, if the Panthers can get Oher to just the level of serviceable, it will be an upgrade over last season. 

Jordan Todman was fighting a stomach bug but still practiced in between trips to the sideline to vomit and hydrate. You have to admire his resolve. Todman is not a lock to make this roster, and he knows every snap counts. 

Mike Remmers beard. Thats all. 

 
Today's Climbers: 
- Damiere Byrd - As stated earlier, his best performance of camp.
- Cameron Artis-Payne - CAP had the prettiest touchdown scamper of camp so far. He also appears to be improving in pass protection during second team drills. So far, so good for this rookie. 
- Mario Addison - Addison may be the most improved defensive player on the roster. I am very impressed what he has brought so far. He appears to be well ahead of Kony Ealy at this point. 
- Lee Ward - Caught a nice ball out in the flat, made some killer blocks in pass protection. 
 
On the way to the practice field, I noticed one player had a little something extra tucked in his sock. I respect that. Old School. 

Kurt Coleman was out on the practice field early, catching balls from the tire machine. Coleman has looked solid over the weekend and could be a starting day 1 strong safety. 

KK Short was on a bike again, unfortunately. 

Star and Charles were working on some of the finer hand details of the position before the initial whistle blew. Younger players need to really pay attention to this. These guys are not fighting for a roster spot, yet they are out there early working on the minutia of the position. 

Cam had another decent day today, although the protection he was getting was not ideal. 


... He was not wearing a superhero shirt today, sadly. 
 
David Mayo looks the part of a middle linebacker. He has been fairly quiet in camp, however. 

Fozzy Whitaker continues to get second string reps behind Jonathan Stewart. Whitaker looks like a solid option as a chance of pace back, but could get pushed by Cameron Artis-Payne and Brandon Wegher as camp continues. 

Corey Brown has improved since a lackluster start of camp. He is still getting more first team reps than Ginn.  

Thomas Davis was sure to let Jonathan Stewart know that it was him that tagged his fanny on a running play. Stewart laughed as Davis informed him. 

The veterans on the team spend a lot of time in between series discussing the plays and the schemes. Pictured are three guys you will not find talking about vacation activities or the night's plans while on the practice field. These guys are 100% football in the moment. 

 
Other Notes: 
- Nate Chandler took most if not all of the second string left tackle reps. 
- Overall, the defense had the upper hand today. I counted 6 "would be" sacks on Cam Newton. Many times the pass went on to be completed, but in an actual game situation it would have been a downed QB or a Cam Newton scramble. 
- Mike Remmers looked solid on the right side of the line. My concern over that position is starting to go away. Solid protection against Charles Johnson. 
- Defensive tackle Kyle Love has made plays in this camp. The Panthers could possibly opt for him over Colin Cole. 
- Colin Jones made another great play on a Cam Newton pass today, nearly intercepting it. Jones has amazing closing speed that will keep in him in the mix for playing time.  
 
Additional Articles From Today's Practice
Oher Struggles Early
Shaq Thompson Making Plays
Also check out Thomas Davis' Visor
The Carolina Panthers hope to have upgraded the left tackle position over last year's starter Byron Bell. Bell struggled greatly against faster defensive ends who could quickly divert around him. 
Bell's replacement, Michael Oher, appears to be having the same issue early in training camp. 
Oher had a tough time today containing Mario Addison and Frank Alexander in the first practice where the players were in full pads. On more than one occasion, Cam Newton would have been sacked if not for the "QB off limits" rule in training camp. 
The play of the day for the defensive line came from Mario Addison who was matching up against Oher. Addison was able to quickly move around Oher's left side and bat down a Cam Newton pass. While cheers came from the sidelines for the defense, the offensive coaching staff must be at least a little concerned. 
Options at left tackle are extremely limited for the Panthers currently. The second string left tackle for the Panthers is currently Nate Chandler, who lost the left tackle position last season to Byron Bell. 
Oher will need to improve, particularly against the speed rushers, if the Panthers offense plans on having an effective passing game this season. 
Shaq Thompson has officially arrived at Panthers training camp. While being largely absent the first two practices, he started to come into his own on today's third practice. 

 
During 7 on 7 drills, Thompson made a speedy break on a Cam Newton pass intended for Greg Olsen. Thompson batted the ball now, marking his first official play made in Panthers training camp. 

One of Thompson's primary responsibilities will be to cover talented tight ends like Jimmy Graham (now in Seattle). Getting camp experience against pro bowler Greg Olsen can only accelerate his learning and adjusting to the pro game. 
Thompson continued to impress throughout the day. Another play that sticks out in my mind is a very quick gap stop, halting Fozzy Whitaker's progress. The Carolina Panthers had issues with plugging the correct gap in run defense for a good portion of last season. 
Shaq Thompson is having more thrown at him than most defensive rookies. He is learning what is probably the most complicated position on the defensive side of the field. While other rookies can be thrown into the mix relatively quickly, Thompson will require more film room time in addition to playing time. 
If today's performance is any indication, Thompson may be a quick study. 
Not a great day for photos, but the day did yield some things worth seeing. 
 
First off, Kelvin Benjamin continues to impress. This long reception from Cam Newton over Carrington Byndom put an exclamation point on his day. Kelvin has been catching the ball very well, with very few drops. 

 
Shaq Thompson has been very quiet in team drills. There is no bad news, but there is no good news on that front. In drills, however, it is easy to see how athletic he is. He moves exactly like that linebacker/safety hybrid he was billed as. It remains to be seen how this will translate on game days 

I am really impressed with Brandon Wegher's speed. Once he hits a hole he bursts out as quickly as any running back I have ever seen. Keep an eye on this kid, he could be a sleeper to make the practice squad or more. 

Jordan Todman took the field again after missing some time yesterday. He is in direct competition with Wegher for a roster spot, but Todman's experience returning kicks will most likely give him the edge. 

Kurt Coleman has been very impressive in camp so far. He spent some time in the strong safety position today with Roman Harper sliding over to free safety. He made a really nice adjustment on a poorly thrown Cam Newton ball intended for Greg Olsen and made the interception. No comment on the socks... 

After being Captain America yesterday, Today Cam was Spiderman. Tomorrow.... Ironman? 

A funny moment occurred after practice as the linebackers practiced catching interceptions. Kelvin Benjamin strolled through their drill casually and purposefully, taking his time. 
 

Kelvin was notified by Thomas Davis that it would be the last time he did that, as Kelvin just grinned. 
 
Other thoughts not pictured- 
- Ted Ginn was very impressive today. His TD reception over Josh Norman was something the Panthers could have surely used early last season. Norman was a good five or six yards yards behind Ginn. 
- Up until now the offense has been winning the training camp battle, which is typically how it works. It will likely be a different story on Sunday when the pads are on. 
Last season, then rookie Kelvin Benjamin was selected to get in special reps with Cam Newton away from the other players. Typically, they would go over end zone routes or fine tune a few things here or there.
Well, that trend is happening again this year, but they have added one more participant. 
Devin Funchess

During Saturday's training camp session, Kelvin and Devin joined Cam Newton on the opposite field to work together away from the rest of the team. 
 
They caught extra passes from Cam Newton while running various routes, and then spoke to Newton about them. 

 
 

 
Small adjustments were made, and the routes run again. 
 
During one of the drills, Funchess had a chance to show off his vertical while going for an overthrown ball. I found it fairly impressive. 
 

I realize this may not seem like much, but it could be early signs of a Kelvin/Devin duo taking over the receiving corps.
 
Stay tuned. 
Each day during Carolina Panthers training camp I will be giving a few observations on how some of the Panthers rookies are shaping up according to their performance that day. Not all rookies will be discussed, as I only have a single set of eyeballs. 
Offensive Tackle Daryl Williams seems to have improved since OTAs. This may be because contact is allowed now, giving a guy like Williams his full arsenal to work with. 
Williams was able to get out of his stance quicker, kick that back foot and not letting speedy defensive ends around him as easily. 

Ron Rivera watched on as Williams demonstrated his improved technique. 

Note: Daryl Williams spent time in drills on the right AND the left side. A sign of things to come? Could be. 
Cameron Artis-Payne had the crowds in the stands and on the lawn pretty excited. He showed a really nice second gear once he got past the defensive line. He also covered up and protected the ball well. At this point you could not ask for much more from a rookie runningback. 

Devin Funchess had a relatively quiet day. Nothing negative to report, but not much positive as well. He caught the ball well in drills, but did not have many opportunities in team drills. 
 
One could easily make the argument that Carolina Panthers guard Andrew Norwell was the biggest steal in last year's rookie class. At the cost of an undrafted free agent, the Panthers landed an impressive full time starter in year one. 
Now, in year two, he seems to have picked up right where he left off. 
During 1 on 1 drills between the offensive and defensive lines, Norwell displayed exactly why he is currently the starter over former starter Amini Silotulu. 
Norwell is not a physical specimen. He does not have the measurables and stats that pro scouts adore. 
But he does have a special set of skills....

 
Norwell is technically sound and football strong. Even while taking hands to the face from Dwan Edwards. 

He recovers, plants himself, and drives the defensive opponent backwards. 

Later, he did much the same with KK Short, which is no easy task. 
 
 
Notice the quick feet, wide stance, and punishing forearm that will keep Cam Newton looking down field and not for somewhere to run. 
 
I know, I know, its another Norwell article from Igo. But really folks, this kid is a long term solution for the Panthers that did not cost a draft pick. In today's NFL of high priced QBs and other marquee players, Norwell is exactly the type of player that allows a team to contend year after year. 
The Carolina Panthers need unsung guys like Norwell if they expect to be playing in January. 
 
 
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