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2023 Training Camp Observations: Day 5


SPARTANBURG — It wasn't perfect, and they'll go inside and pick it apart later today when they watch the film and find plenty of flaws.

But at first glance, the work Bryce Young and the first offense did in the first red zone work of camp was good.

Other than an interception to Keith Taylor Jr. in the final period of the day, Young was sharp throughout.

"Yeah, I thought Bryce had a good day today in the red zone," head coach Frank Reich said after practice. "You know, when you get down there, it's a really tight window, right? You have to try things out, like we're going to tell him to challenge yourself. See if you can put the ball in that place, in that window against that coverage; we need to find those things out. Now, what are we comfortable with? Did you like the way he ran that route?

"So I thought Bryce did a great job that today, as did all the quarterbacks, and you know, you throw enough down there, you know, you're going to have some good ones and some bad ones, but I thought it was a good day."

During one segment, Young hit wide receiver DJ Chark Jr. on back-to-back touchdown passes across the middle (with Chark punctuating the second one with a slick little ball-spin), before coming back and squeezing one into a tight window to tight end Hayden Hurst in the front of the end zone.

There weren't linemen on the field for that period of 7-on-7, but Young's ability to work across the middle is positive, and his anticipation on the first throw to Chark allowed him to get it out quickly. When you get that close, you want to either stick it in the end zone or be careful and check it down, and Young was willing to roll the dice on a few throws.

— The Taylor pick was a nice one for him and the team in general, considering the current state of his position.

They were without CJ Henderson and Rejzohn Wright because of injuries Tuesday, so they walked onto the field thin.

The perception of that position as a trouble spot was partially because of the OTA and minicamp absences of Jaycee Horn and Donte Jackson. When they weren't on the field, it looked lean back there. But they're back now, and while the team is still monitoring their workloads while coming back from injuries of their own, they're participating in most of the work.

They're still short on numbers, and they might need to add there, but Reich said he was encouraged by the work he's seen from the guys on the field, especially Taylor.

"I feel great about the cornerback depth," Reich said before talking specifically about Taylor. "He's had a strong couple of good days together now, as you guys have seen, so that's what we're looking for. I mean, the play he made today in red zone was really nice. Made a couple of nice plays the other day in the stadium here.

"So we need that competition. We need that depth, unfortunately, in this league at every position. We've got to have that, and this is a time of year that we can develop that to the fullest."

Keith Taylor

— Other than Henderson and Wright, the Panthers didn't have outside linebacker Marquis Haynes Sr. (back) or running back Camerun Peoples (heat-related) on the practice field Tuesday.

Reich said that rookie guard Chandler Zavala was getting close to a return after he started camp on the active/physically unable to perform list because of a hamstring injury.

Reich said it was possible that Zavala could be cleared and back on the field later this week or early next week, which would add to the competition on the offensive line.

Cade Mays continues to take most of the reps with the ones at right guard, though undrafted rookie Nash Jensen continues to get work with that group from time to time. Putting Zavala back into that mix will make things more interesting in the middle of the line than it's been in years since there are quality veteran options, including Justin McCray and Michael Jordan, in there as well.

Jeremy Kelley, Wesley Walls

— It wouldn't be a true Panthers practice without some honored alumni showing up, and Tuesday was no exception.

Hall of Honor tight end Wesley Walls was on the sidelines and spent some time talking to the tight ends, and former linebacker Luke Kuechly rolled up again (he's almost a regular). Kuechly greeted new linebacker Deion Jones, reminiscing about their rivalry when Jones was with the Falcons.

Hall of Fame general manager Bill Polian was also at practice, part of a tour with his SiriusXM NFL Radio show.

He stopped to chat with senior defensive assistant Dom Capers early in practice, reuniting the 1995 team's coach and GM.

— We keep seeing more and more personality from Young during interviews as he gets more comfortable.

He discussed, among other things, his song choice from the rookie talent show (Keyshia Cole's "Love"), saying, "I sang my little heart out."

He also touched on his new Bojangles deal, having already found that the Bo-Berry Biscuit is his go-to order ("10 out of 10").

But he laughed when asked about Chark revealing last week that he had worked as a DoorDash driver during his early years at Alabama.

As insane as that sounds, Young said, "Hey, that was before NIL." But he added that he wasn't often recognized around Tuscaloosa, as unlikely as that sounds (though doing it during COVID helped him stay a little incognito).

"And, honestly, I would have like a mask on and a hoodie," he said. "And then I would only really accept the drop-it-at-my-door orders. So, for the most part, I never really got recognized or anything."

— We could make the DJ Chark catch of the day a regular feature here, but there were several other nice grabs in practice that stood out.

Tight end Stephen Sullivan had a nice touchdown grab from Andy Dalton. He's shown flashes in the passing game, and there's an opportunity for somebody to be a second receiving option behind Hurst. He has the talent to be that guy, and put together a good practice.

— Veteran linebacker Shaq Thompson is one of the old guys around here, but he also displayed what they call a little servant leadership during practice.

After a period of individuals, Thompson grabbed the big trash cans they use to create space in drills and carried them to the sidelines to get them out of the way. He didn't have to do it, there are a sufficient number of staffers around to do things like that, but Thompson just took the initiative and moved his own furniture.

View photos of players arriving to practice on Tuesday.

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