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Five Takeaways From Friday's Practice

Posted Oct 30, 2015

Safety Colin Jones talks about his first career interception; head coach Ron Rivera talks about his first impressions of guard Andrew Norwell.

1. JONES MAKES HIS MARK: Safety Colin Jones' first career interception was a matter of being at the right place at the right time.

Of course, that's what the Panthers count on from Jones anytime they give him snaps on defense.

"It happened so fast. I must be living right," Jones said of the interception, which came in the first quarter of his first start this season in Carolina's victory over Philadelphia last week. "I went to make the tackle, and the ball just kind of popped out and I was able to grab it. It was pretty cool. I don't know how I held onto it, but I'm glad I did."

Jones played 28 snaps against the Eagles, virtually matching the 29 he played over the first five games. He hasn't played as much on defense as last year when he played the nickel extensively during Bene Benwikere's six-game absence with an ankle injury, but he still has a role.

"It's just a matchup situation," Jones said. "I want to help our defense any way I can, and that particular week it just worked out where I could get on the field a little more. It's a revolving role pretty much based on the other team."

On the other hand, Jones is a staple on special teams, where he is tied with five others for the team lead with four tackles.

"We've been getting better every week. We're playing some really good football," Jones said. "There are still some things we need to work on, but we're definitely trending in the right direction."

2. TEAM DEFENSE DEFINED: Jones' interception was made possible when defensive tackle Star Lotulelei pressured the quarterback into making a throw. That kind of teamwork helps explain how the Panthers have captured both NFC Defensive Player of the Month honors this season: cornerback Josh Norman for September and defensive tackle Kawann Short for October.

"It goes to show how versatile this defense is. It's not about one man around here," linebacker Thomas Davis said. "It all goes hand-in-hand. Josh was able to win because of what the D-line was able to do. KK was able to win because of what the back end was able to do.

"We've done a great job all year of playing great team defense. We could care less about the individual awards because at the end of the day it's all about getting the win, which we've been able to do so far."

Davis, playing at a very high level alongside Luke Kuechly, was spot-on with his assessment. Still, head coach Ron Rivera couldn't resist when asked what he thought about his linebackers not winning a monthly award yet.

"Those guys are slacking off," he joked.

3. ON GUARDS: Rivera also was asked about the development of starting guards Andrew Norwell and Trai Turner, now in their second seasons after up-and-down rookie campaigns.

Rivera was frank about his first impressions of Norwell, an undrafted rookie out of Ohio State in 2014 who at first showed why he went undrafted and then showed why he was a three-time All-Big Ten selection.

"When we first got him and we did some one-on-one drills, when you watched him, I thought to myself, ‘This guy is terrible,' " Rivera said. "But all of a sudden, you put a center next to him and a tackle next to him, and he fits like a glove.

"Individually he wasn't very good, but in a group setting, he flourished. That's where you really saw his strengths come out, as a part of a group."

Rivera is impressed by how Turner has gelled with Norwell and center Ryan Kalil.

"Those three guys on the inside give you what you want as far as your quarterback having the comfort level that he can step up into the pocket," Rivera said. "That's part of the bond they've developed."

4. SPEAKING OF KALIL: Kalil missed practice again Friday with an ankle injury. Rivera again said he's a little concerned about Kalil's status for Monday Night Football against the Indianapolis Colts, with Fernando Velasco slated to start if Kalil can't go. Rivera stopped just short of ruling out defensive tackle Dwan Edwards (ankle) and linebacker Shaq Thompson (knee) for the second consecutive game after having already ruled out defensive end Mario Addison.

5. SIMONSON READY WHEN NEEDED: Throughout the course of two injuries to Richie Brockel, one of which landed the versatile tight end on injured reserve last week, Scott Simonson worked to get up to speed on Brockel's role that's part tight end, part fullback.

The work is still in progress now that Simonson is on the 53-man roster, backing up Greg Olsen and Ed Dickson.

"I played receiver in high school and in college I was more of a receiving tight end than blocker, but I like the tight end position because it's the jack of all trades," Simonson said. "You have to be able to do everything. I'm used to the receiving part. The blocking part I'm working on every day, but I take a lot of pride in that."

Simonson, who caught six passes in the preseason, totaled 104 catches for 1,537 yards and 15 touchdowns at Assumption College in Worcester, Mass. Simonson played in four games for the Oakland Raiders as an undrafted rookie at the end of last season but is now enjoying his new home.

"I'm loving it here. The city of Charlotte is one of my favorite places to live thus far, and there's a great group of guys and a great atmosphere," he said. "Even before we were 6-0, it was a great atmosphere."