Now that we are a few weeks into offseason practices, I thought I would take a few minutes to fill you in on how some the 2016 Carolina Panthers rookies are doing.
He is known as “Big Vern” and for good reason. Butler definitely looks the part of a NFL defensive tackle. Vernon saw extended playing time this week in the absence of KK Short. Butler was very impressive, even to the most casual observer. He has a tremendously quick first step that gets him in the backfield nearly instantaneously. The quickness of his feet reminds me so much of Warren Sapp. Lets hope the rest of his game can be at Sapp’s level as well.
The Panthers second round pick has seen more action than any other rookie on the team. Bradberry is on the field for the majority of first string reps, and some of the second string reps. Clearly, the Panthers are banking on him developing quickly and performing at an acceptable level this year. Bradberry seems confident in this role and mixes it up with the veteran receivers with no hesitation. He may be more physical than Josh Norman.
Worley is not getting quite the number of reps as Bradberry, but he is getting a fair amount. Most of his reps have come with the second and third string units. Worley doesn’t have quite the athleticism of Bradberry, making it more important for him to be technically sound. Steve Wilks can often be seen speaking to Worley after plays, going over the minutia of the position. Turning your shoulders, hand placement, keeping your hips level, and such.
Of all the rookie corners, Sanchez has struggled the most thus far. This is not a total surprise, as his smaller frame and increased responsibility as a nickel comes into play. As a nickel, he is charged with covering more than just an area of the field. It is crucial for him more than others to recognize screens and runs from the inside. Sanchez also has moved outside to cover larger receivers, and has not played as well as either Bradberry or Worley, especially against larger receivers.
Tight End Beau Sandland has been somewhat limited in OTA’s after tweaking his hamstring in rookie camp. Still, in individual drills he catches the ball well and has shown good speed. Until he can get more time in the team drills there is not much else to say.
There isn’t anything negative to say about Garrett. He runs good routes. He catches the ball. The problem is he hasn’t flashed enough to outshine his veteran competition. As soon as last year, Garrett would have been a shoe in to make this roster. Now, with the much higher level of competition, he may not. It is still early, and he still has the personal drive to improve. I am not counting him out.
Devon “Rockhead” Johnson
It is difficult to assess larger bruising running backs in OTA’s. Without contact, it is like trying to assess a NASCAR drivers behind a pace car. Johnson has shown the ability to catch out of the backfield, which is very important if he plans on replacing Mike Tolbert. However, until he can put a helmet on a linebacker, it remains to be seen what this kid brings to the table.
Jeremy Cash has spent his time with the third string unit mainly, at weakside linebacker. While his lighter frame is a negative in run support up the middle, he absolutely flies to the ball on screens and sweeps. Tuesday he instantly closed on the speedy RB Brandon Wegher on a screen pass. If he can put on 15 pounds of muscle without losing speed, I think the Panthers might really have a player on their hands.