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OTAs: Five things to watch

Posted May 21, 2013

CHARLOTTE – Today marks the beginning of Phase Three of the Panthers' offseason workout program as the team takes the field for the first of 10 organized team activities (OTAs).

All coaches are allowed on the field, and team offense vs. team defense drills are permitted provided no live contact occurs. Clubs may require players to wear helmets but no shells are allowed during Phase Three. 

Carolina's mandatory minicamp will be from June 11-13. All other OTAs are voluntary.

Here are five storylines to watch during OTAs.

1. Shula runs the offense

Mike Shula is entering his first season as the Panthers' offensive coordinator after two seasons as the team's quarterbacks coach. Shula and quarterback Cam Newton developed a close relationship during those two years, and now Shula's role has expanded.

The OTAs provide Shula with his first opportunity to work on the field with veterans as the offensive coordinator, and he's anxious to get started.

"We need to grow together," Shula said. "We need to do a better job in the offseason, in training camp, in the OTAs to start the season better than we did last year.

"The most important message we have to have for each other is the urgency to get it done right away."

2. New targets

Timing is critical at the wide receiver position, and unrestricted free agent signings Domenik Hixon and Ted Ginn will look to get on the same page with Newton.

David Gettis and Kealoha Pilares aren't newcomers, but those two will also look to refine their timing after each missed the majority of the 2012 season due to injury.

3. Competition in secondary begins

In addition to re-signing cornerback Captain Munnerlyn, the Panthers added three unrestricted free agents who are expected to contribute significantly in the secondary – cornerbacks D.J. Moore and Drayton Florence and safety Mike Mitchell.

Those players will be involved in heavy competition for roles in the defensive backfield, and the initial stage of that battle for positioning gets under way today. 

4. Rookies meet veterans

The Panthers' rookies were introduced to professional football at the team's rookie minicamp earlier in May. They'll take the field with the veterans for the first time during OTAs.

Rookie defensive tackles Star Lotulelei and Kawann Short – Carolina's first two picks in the 2013 NFL Draft – will get a better sense of the defense they're expected to instantly impact by practicing alongside veterans.

5. New position coaches

Several new position coaches will finally get to the chance to put their players through the paces.

Jim Skipper, who coached in Carolina from 2002-10, is back with the team to oversee the running backs. Ricky Proehl was promoted to wide receivers coach this offseason with Lance Taylor joining the team as his assistant. Ken Dorsey is stepping in for Shula to coach the quarterbacks. Al Holcomb enters his first season leading the Carolina linebackers, and Bruce DeHaven joins the team as an assistant to special teams coordinator Richard Rodgers.