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2020 Training Camp Observations: Media get first look

Pharoh Cooper catch

CHARLOTTE — At long last, Panthers' practices are open to the media. As players have described over the last couple weeks, the sessions are up-tempo and full of energy. Rarely is a player standing still for long without being engaged.

Wide receiver Pharoh Cooper made Sunday's play of the day with a diving catch in the middle of the field for a perfect pass from quarterback Will Grier during an early 11-on-11 period. Cooper is better known as a returner, going to the Pro Bowl in 2017 for his performance at the spot with the Rams. But he's flashed skills as a receiver in the past and could make an impact there for the Panthers in 2020.

Here are some more observations from Carolina's first open practice of this unique training camp.

— It did not feel like Aug. 16 in Charlotte. At 8:35, it was 67 degrees with overcast skies. Ideal conditions for football practice, but unusual for the middle of summer.

— Defensive end Efe Obada was the first player on the field. He got in some work on the individual sled at about 8:15 before going back inside the Atrium Health Dome.

— Practice began inside the Dome before players ventured outside for a special teams period. They went back inside for another period or two before getting back on the grass for the remainder of practice.

— Instead of traditional red jerseys, quarterbacks sported green jerseys. As a speculative reason why: Certain coaches may feel like the red color has a negative connotation while green does not.

— Speaking of jersey color, the first-team defensive players had on black jerseys instead of white like the rest of the unit.

— Tight end Ian Thomas made a few nice catches on crossing routes and deep routes from quarterback Teddy Bridgewater.

— It was against air, but Bridgewater showed developing chemistry with wide receivers like Robby Anderson and DJ Moore on timing routes. Bridgewater was routinely firing off accurate passes even before the wideouts were coming out of their breaks.

— Christian McCaffrey was in midseason form during one-on-one drills with running backs and linebackers. Predictably, he was impossible to cover on choice routes, providing an easy target for Bridgewater out of the backfield.

— Safety Juston Burris, who signed with the Panthers as a free agent in March, made a nice pass breakup against tight end Colin Thompson during the one-on-one period.

— During the early part of team drills, Cooper made his deep diving catch from Grier. Cooper broke away from his defender close to the line of scrimmage and made the grab just as he crossed the goal line. It was easily the top catch of the day.

— First-round pick defensive tackle Derrick Brown made his presence felt during 11-on-11 drills by deflecting a Bridgewater pass at the line of scrimmage. Even without pads, Brown and veteran defensive tackle Kawann Short are imposing figures in the middle of the line.

— Wide receiver Curtis Samuel caught a short pass on the left side, then made a few moves to display how effective he is in space. The play was a glimpse of the variety of ways he might be used in offensive coordinator Joe Brady's scheme this season.

— Players have mentioned this a bit during their media sessions, but it was noticeable how much the club was rotating between players for 11-on-11 drills. That's not entirely a surprise, especially under a new coaching staff, since coaches need to evaluate strengths and weaknesses in a short time. Plus, they need to know who will be able to contribute without the benefit of preseason games.

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