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Panthers OTA Observations: Day 5

Posted May 31, 2017

Thomas Davis in the middle of a productive day for the defense, but the offense has some success over the middle in the first red zone period of the offseason.

  • Linebacker Thomas Davis set the tone for a sun-splashed OTA on Wednesday, huddling up and firing up his fellow linebackers before breaking for position drills. His teammates had to wait a second though because, begrudgingly, Davis first had to knock out a few self-imposed pushups. Seconds earlier, assistant defensive backs coach Richard Rodgers threw a low ball to Davis that he couldn't haul in, after which a disappointed Davis fired a fastball at Rodgers that the former Cal defensive back snared. "I caught it. I caught it," Rodgers bragged as the two parted ways for position drills.

  • Most of the competition, of course, was offense versus defense, starting with an extensive team period that began and ended with a Cam Newton exclamation of excitement. In between, however, the defense had plenty to be excited about. Running back Jonathan Stewart got Newton's attention with a nice run around the right side on the first snap in 11-on-11, and in 9-on-9 work near the goal line to wrap up the period, rookie Curtis Samuel sparked Newton with a short touchdown catch over the middle. Both plays prompted an enthusiastic "Yeah!" from Newton.

  • After three 11-on-11 plays to kick off the period, the Panthers switched to 9-on-9 and ventured into the red zone for the first time during OTAs, working exclusively on the passing game. The first play set the tone, with linebacker Luke Kuechly and safety Mike Adams bracketing tight end Greg Olsen in the middle of the end zone. Derek Anderson tried to thread it in, but Adams got a hand on the ball, which bound off the crossbar.

  • Several players made a splash during the initial red zone period. Running back Fozzy Whittaker continues to be in the middle of the action, stymied on a short route by Davis before coming back for a touchdown reception from Anderson over the middle. Whittaker, Samuel and fullback Darrel Young caught TD tosses over the middle near the goal line, but the defense controlled action outside of that window. Cornerback James Bradberry broke up Anderson's last shot in the first red zone period, and on the next play, cornerback Captain Munnerlyn broke up Joe Webb's first attempt. Recently signed quarterback Garrett Gilbert got just one snap in the period but made the most of it, hooking up with fullback Alex Armah in the flat. Armah looked fully capable of finishing it off if live contact were allowed.

  • The Panthers later started off another spirited team period with a few 11-on-11 snaps in the middle of the field, and Davis was again in the middle of the action. On the first snap, wide receiver Devin Funchess caught an Anderson pass, but cornerback Daryl Worley ripped the ball loose, and Davis pounced on it and headed down the sideline. Soon after wide receiver Kaelin Clay flashed his speed that could be valuable in the return game by getting a step deep on cornerback Cole Luke, but the undrafted rookie closed and was able to knock away Webb's pass at the last second.

  • After Bradberry wrapped up the middle-of-the-field work with a breakup against wide receiver Russell Shepard, the action then shifted to down-and-distance snaps within various parts of the red zone. The Panthers went 11-on-11 and mixed in the run game the second time around in the red zone. Defensive end Mario Addison broke through for a virtual sack of Anderson, but he and Shephard got the last laugh, connecting on a nice strike (again over the middle) off play-action.

  • The Panthers wrapped up the day with an "opportunity" period for Gilbert and other reserves in the red zone. The former Southern Methodist quarterback has acquitted himself well since signing with the team in March, and he capped the session with a touchdown to undrafted rookie wide receiver Fred Ross.