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2020 Training Camp Observations: Separate squads for a competitive Tuesday

Teddy Bridgewater

CHARLOTTE — The Panthers continued a string of competitive practices with another day of almost exclusively team drills.

But Tuesday's session was a little different in that head coach Matt Rhule fashioned two "teams" and kept score. On one side was the first-team offense and second-team defense. The other side had the first-team defense and second-team offense. Whichever squad had the most points at the end would win.

There were three phases to the practice. The first was a game-opening drive. The second was the "middle eight," meaning the final four minutes of the first half, halftime, and the first four minutes of the second half. Then there was a two-minute drill.

With a little bit of score manipulation, the scrimmage ended in a tie. However, the sideline with the first-team offense and second-team defense was the only one to do a quick sprinting drill.

Here are some other observations from practice:

— During a field goal walkthrough, offensive coordinator Joe Brady, quarterback Teddy Bridgewater, and wide receiver Robby Anderson were locked in on a discussion ostensibly about a route concept. It looked like they were all getting on the same page for the proper timing and ball placement.

— The Panthers usually go through their ball security circuit inside the Atrium Health Dome, but on Tuesday they did it outside. There were three stations, each with coaches trying to pry the ball from a skill player's hands. The offense had trouble with fumbles early on in open practices, but have since cleaned that up.

Reggie Bonnafon ball security

— The scrimmage started with a kickoff, like most sessions under this format have with Rhule. The Panthers also had the ambient crowd noise playing throughout practice to get players used to it. The noise also adds an element of distraction.

— Rhule likes to keep players on their toes by suddenly throwing in different situations. He did that at the start of practice by having kicker Joey Slye perform a surprise onside kick. Slye recovered it himself after it went farther than 10 yards down the field. It was a good reminder to always be ready.

— Starting middle linebacker Tahir Whitehead was on the sidelines for a veteran's rest day, which meant more time for linebackers to be rotated in. Rhule mentioned he wanted to see more of Jordan Kunaszyk and Andre Smith.

— Coaches continued to rotate a lot of players both on offense and defense, from the line to the skill players on the outside.

— The most striking thing about when Carolina's defense substitutes is defensive tackles Kawann Short and Derrick Brown coming back on the field. The two men are the epitome of the saying, "They look good coming off the bus." From just their size, Short and Brown are going to present problems.

— There were more pre-snap penalties than usual. The defense had a few neutral-zone infractions and the offense a few false starts.

— Rookie safety Jeremy Chinn continued to make a positive impression with his physicality. The first-team defense wasn't tackling the offensive starters, but Chinn's "thuds" were impactful. The coaching staff praised him for that work.

— Running back Christian McCaffrey caught a nice pass from Bridgewater for the session's only touchdown. With linebacker Shaq Thompson in coverage, McCaffrey ran a route to the back-right pylon. Bridgewater dropped the pass in over the running back's shoulder for the scoring strike.

Troy Pride Jr.

— But on the ensuing play, cornerback Troy Pride Jr. foiled the offense's two-point conversion attempt when the rookie intercepted Bridgewater's pass to Curtis Samuel in the middle of the end zone. Pride tried to run it back since in a real game, that would be two points if he reached the opposite end zone, but didn't get very far. Still, it was a good play for the fourth-round pick as he tries to build momentum in the starting cornerback competition.

— At the end of the two-minute drill, cornerback Donte Jackson blocked Slye's field goal. The speedy corner burst in from the kicking team's right, laid out, and got the coveted double-thud. Jackson was rightly pumped and celebrated with his teammates after the play of the day.

Donte Jackson blocked field goal

— Defensive end Stephen Weatherly forced a play to be blown dead because it would have been a sack when he rushed off the offense's right on third down.

— Chinn had solid coverage on tight end Chris Manhertz on a route down the defense's left side. Bridgewater didn't have much of a place to go with it and the ball fell incomplete.

— In the final two-minute drill for the starters, Bridgewater connected with wide receiver DJ Moore twice to gain chunk yardage. Bridgewater then found Anderson to set up Slye with a makeable field goal. Though Slye had the distance, his kick went wide right.

View practice photos from Tuesday's camp session.

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