Camp observations: A case of the Mondays for the offense

Robby Anderson, Jaycee Horn

SPARTANBURG — The good news was, the defense looked pretty good.

(Perhaps consider looking away if you're faint of heart.)

Panthers head coach Matt Rhule talks to his players all the time about practicing with pace, being sharp and detailed, and doing small things correctly. Coming off a day off, he expected more.

They responded Monday morning with the sloppiest practice of camp so far, at least on the offensive side of the ball.

Matt Rhule

There were three interceptions and multiple fumbles, but the hail of mistakes, including penalties and countless other errors, had Rhule less-than-thrilled after practice.

"Today was not good enough," Rhule said afterward. "I can't comment on the defense, so I'm going to keep it strictly on the offense. . . . Today was really poor on offense at times. There's always some good things that happen; you saw some leadership from some guys, thought we ran the ball well, but the false starts, the fumbles, the interceptions, the missed assignments, . . . really disappointing.

"It doesn't matter. There's a thousand reasons why. This game is so simple, you either get it done or you don't. We are a work in progress. I don't make excuses, and I don't want others to make them for us. I don't care if you came out here, and it rained all night, and the field was sloppy. Our job is to go out there and execute and play good football. I could let them off the hook and say, eh, it was an off day, . . . but that's not what this game is about. This game is about finding a way to get it done, and we did not get it done well enough today."

While it's easy to point to the quarterbacks when assigning blame for interceptions, Rhule goes back and looks at practice tape for a reason. For instance, if receivers run sloppy routes, breaking at 5 yards instead of 7 or vice versa, it creates an opening for the defense to make a play. And he pointed out that Sam Darnold had a good practice Saturday night, even if it didn't necessarily carry over through the weekend.

So even though rookie cornerback Jaycee Horn had a pair of picks, and the defense as a whole was good, it was not the performance Rhule was looking for.

— On the bright side, things should change tomorrow.

The Panthers put on pads for the first time Tuesday, and Rhule said they needed it.

"We're definitely a team that needs to get in pads," he said. "Get some physicality out and see who can really play."

And while Rhule's not interested in excuses, it's not uncommon for all teams to lag after a series of unpadded practices.

Tomorrow should get everyone's attention. It better.

— Cornerback A.J. Bouye went down during one-on-one drills.

He immediately got some attention from the team's athletic training staff and eventually walked off the field. Rhule said afterward he might have "pulled something," but he didn't have an update on Bouye's condition.

A.J. Bouye

The Panthers are at least reasonably deep at corner. When they ran plays out of their nickel defense, Myles Hartsfield worked at the nickel spot Bouye usually occupies, and they have a number of options at outside corner beyond Horn and Donte Jackson.

That's not necessarily the case at linebacker. Shaq Thompson was limited Monday after tweaking something Saturday night. He wore a green jersey for most of practice, but he did do individual drills. Rhule said there was some thought to having him practice today, but the preference was to give him a day to recover so he'd be ready to go tomorrow.

— The Panthers promised they'd churn the bottom of the roster to look at extra guys, and they've only brought in one guy so far.

But they did work out a pair of what appeared to be linebackers after Monday's practice.

— With all the mistakes, there was an old-school approach to correction.

After he had the ball knocked away, wide receiver DJ Moore grabbed a ball and took a lap around the practice field. He had plenty of company getting the extra conditioning, with rookie running back Chuba Hubbard getting one later, along with a number of offensive linemen.

— Speaking of offensive linemen, they promised to check out all their options. Monday, that included seeing what Greg Little could do with the ones.

The former second-round pick isn't among the popularly discussed alternatives at the position, but they're going to see what he can offer.

View photos from Monday's training camp practice at Wofford.

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