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Carolina Panthers

2023 Training Camp Observations: Day 4

Taylor Moton, Eku Leota

SPARTANBURG – Taylor Moton's been around for seven training camps now, but the season's first practice in full pads hasn't lost all of its luster.

Carolina's veteran right tackle said it was nice to "smack a little bit more" Monday than they've been able to in the early stages of camp, as the offensive line was able to put technique to work against the Panthers' defensive front on another toasty day at Wofford.

"It's a lot of fun," Moton said. "It's been a lot of fun every year. … The older you get, the more you kind of know what's going on. You know what to expect, and the game continues to slow down for me, which is cool. It's been awesome. I just love getting to come out here (and) play with such a tremendous group of men."

Moton's quite familiar with the group around him. All five starters from last year's line returned this year with just one injury blip, as right guard Austin Corbett is still recovering from ACL surgery. But Moton said second-year backup Cade Mays has slotted in well beside him in Corbett's absence.

"Day in and day out, we're continuing to grow our chemistry together," Moton said. "I love all the guys in the room. And even though Austin's not with us right now on the field, he's doing a great job coaching everyone up. He's still 100 percent dialed in. I'm still asking him ways how I can get better. He's watched us, and he's done a wonderful job with that.

"I believe Cade's doing a great job of that next-man-in mentality. We're continuing to grow."

And this season, with a rookie quarterback behind them, all eyes are watching.

Bryce Young faced some speed from the Panthers' defensive front at points throughout his first practice in full pads.

Moton said the offensive line is taking the challenge that comes from protecting Young as an opportunity. Any pressure is positive.

"The older I get, the more I realize I love pressure," Moton said. "You know, it's such an opportunity to be in this league and be able to do what I've been able to do for seven years now.

"I don't put any extra pressure on myself. At the end of the day, I want Bryce to do the best he possibly can. I think he's a tremendous quarterback, and he's continuing to grow day in and day out. But this is the ultimate team sport. If I'm not holding up on my end of the bargain, he can't be the best version of himself. … I'm excited to be blocking for Bryce and excited to continue to work with him in the future."

Ikem Ekwonu, Brian Burns

– With pads on, one-on-ones between linemen are again a thing.

And that means a daily dose of Brian Burns vs. Ikem Ekwonu.

The pair of first-round picks are engaging in a high level of work, reminiscent of Julius Peppers and Jordan Gross working against each other in the 2000s

And like that battle, this one is never one-sided.

Ekwonu was able to stonewall Burns on the first rep between the two, getting his hands into him and using his strength to keep him in check. On the second snap, Burns used his speed to get inside Ekwonu.

If it's a physical contest, Ekwonu is usually going to have the advantage. If it's speed, Burns obviously has a natural edge. But that's not an ironclad rule, and the two are getting better while working against each other on a regular basis.

That's good for both sides.

– Linebacker Frankie Luvu grabbed an interception against Young, swooping in front of the quarterback after he saw pressure coming during a team period.

Luvu's not the only linebacker who's gotten to the ball this camp. Kamu Grugier-Hill has already picked off Andy Dalton twice, and Shaq Thompson got one Saturday off Young.

– Cornerback CJ Henderson walked off the field with members of the athletic training staff. Frank Reich referred to it as a groin injury, but had no updates on the severity of it when he was interviewed coming off the practice field. Henderson returned to the sidelines but didn't participate afterward.

Rookie running back Camerun Peoples has helped off the field as well, with what appeared to be some heat-related issues. He was carted into the locker room after getting attention from the medical staff.

Cornerback Rejzohn Wright wasn't dressed for practice, and spent his time working out on the side with an undisclosed issue.

– Donte Jackson is back at full speed after last year's season-ending Achilles injury.

And even though he's fresh off recovery, Jackson was adamant he remains the fastest on the roster, while wide receiver DJ Chark Jr., his old college teammate at LSU, is pretty speedy too.

A more surprising comment from Jackson, the always-vocal secondary leader?

"DJ probably talks more than me," he said.

– Speaking of Chark, he continues to make the catches that'll prompt oohs and ahs from the fans in Spartanburg, and he did it again on a deep pass from Young.

The two are consistently highlight-worthy together, and Reich is excited about what has happened since the two made it to camp.

"It seems like they do connect every practice," Reich said. "You've got two really smart players. DJ's a really smart player, very savvy and instinctive. Then he's got the speed to go with it. I think Bryce (is) obviously the same way. That's looked good. We're excited about that."

— The Panthers continued to look at options for potential upgrades, and after practice, they worked out a familiar face.

Former Falcons linebacker Deion Jones was on the field to work out for scouts after practice. The 2016 second-rounder went to the Pro Bowl in 2017. The Falcons put him on IR coming out of camp last year and then traded him to the Browns, who activated him, and he played 11 games, starting five.

They're looking for depth behind Thompson and Luvu and have worked out many players in the last week as they maintain emergency lists and look for alternatives.

— Outside linebacker Jordan Thomas got in another scrap Monday, this time with tackle BJ Wilson during one-on-ones. Thomas got his hands in Wilson's face and pushed his helmet off, which let to some feelings. But they were quickly separated, and ran the drill again. Thomas scrapped with tackle Larnel Coleman on Saturday as well.

— It was a humid on Monday morning, with the dew point hitting 72 in the early stages of practice.

Vice president of player personnel Adrian Wilson knows all about the damp heat from growing up in High Point, N.C., but he spent 20 years living in Arizona as a Cardinals player and scout. Though it's drier there, he recalled a lot of days in practice when the temperatures would reach "117 or 118 or so."

"Don't let the number scare you," he said with a laugh

— That sound you could probably hear anywhere on Wofford's campus? That's safety Vonn Bell, who put several good shots on teammates Monday, lowering his shoulder into Chuba Hubbard on one play. Bell's a hitter, the kind that makes a noise you notice.

The Carolina Panthers and Atrium Health teamed up to host the annual Play 60 Day at Training Camp. Kids participated in interactive activities that promote getting 60 minutes of physical activity every day.

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