The comfort level between rookies and vets, new coaches and players, and the players with the playbook has grown noticeably over the last two weeks of OTAs. With that growth has come some highlight-reel plays. It's only May and we've already seen multiple takeaways by the defense and a few connections offensively that will make us all jump out of our seats this fall!
So, for the debut of "Bring It Back," I'm recapping three plays that have stolen the show thus far in OTAs.
Luke Kuechly Setting the Tone Early
On the very first play of team drills this week, Kuechly intercepted Kyle Allen in the middle of the field with a fully-extended, two-handed snag. The comfort level on defense has been the most notable change for me through two weeks. Luke told me this week the biggest difference for him in this new defense is the look pre-snap. Kuechly said, "I was used to playing in a 4-3 with four guys down, stagnant, and you know exactly what you're getting pre-snap and now there are a lot more moving pieces." Kuechly and the other linebackers are using this spring to learn the ins and outs of the new scheme. From this clip, I'm liking the progress.
Chris Hogan Tip Drill
This tip-drill catch was during the first week of OTAs and caught the attention of everyone on the field. The ball seemed to travel in slow motion as Hogan kept it alive. When it ended with a secured catch, the team went crazy. Hogan has been one of my favorite players to watch on the sidelines because he is always working with other receivers and talking routes or technique. Head coach Ron Rivera spoke highly of Hogan earlier in OTAs for the traits and experience he brings to the receiver room. The Panthers have a wide range of skill sets and body types in their pass-catchers from the bigger bodied tight ends to the smaller and shiftier wideouts for QB1 to pick from. If they all can tap into this type of effort, I think a lot more big plays are on the way.
Curtis Samuel Diving Catch
Hogan showed great effort and pursuit with his tip-drill catch, but Curtis Samuel saw that and said, "hold my beer" (probably). Samuel beat cornerback Kevon Seymour down the sideline and went airborne to gain more than 50 yards on this play. I'm sure you saw this play on social media because it has gained over half a million views! But what you didn't see on this play was Samuel lay on the ground for a bit which made everyone a little nervous. Don't worry though, he was just catching his wind after the reception.
There are more moments and videos from this week that I loved, and you can see a few of those here:
The Panthers will be back on the practice field next week on Monday-Thursday for their final week of OTA sessions. Mandatory minicamp follows the week after. Stay tuned to Panthers.com for all the updates and check back next week for my new favorite moments!
View photos from Thursday's practice during the second week of organized team activities.