SPARTANBURG — Another day, another big play from the secondary.
And with it, some hope for what was one of the weak spots of the 2020 version of the Panthers.
Rookie cornerback Jaycee Horn got his first interception of camp Friday morning, making a leaping play during team drills.
"It was a heck of a play," Panthers head coach Matt Rhule said of Horn's pick. "You draft guys with 33-inch arms, you expect them to go up and get the ball, and he did. . . . He definitely has instincts. He just has to master the details of our defense, and that's going to take time.
"One of the things I like about Jaycee, I think his mindset is he's trying to get better. The best players in this league are always trying to get better. They don't ever feel like they've done it all.
"He's got great instincts, he's got long arms, he's a physical kid, and most importantly, he's got the right mindset to be a good player."
The Panthers needed plenty of help in the secondary, and moving Chinn and drafting Horn were two significant changes, but not the only ones. They also added cornerbacks A.J. Bouye and Rashaan Melvin in free agency, knowing that improving there was a priority.
The Panthers were next to last in the league in third-down percentage allowed last year, but the secondary is absolutely more athletic, and should be more competitive this year.
— Speaking of Chinn, the second-year safety has a new nickname.
Linebacker Denzel Perryman revealed that they had taken to calling Chinn "Baby LeBron" in reference to NBA player/cartoon movie star LeBron James.
"He's not normal," Perryman said. "I mean just watch him; he's a freak athlete."
Cornerback Donte Jackson agreed with the name, noting that Chinn's still getting used to being a safety again.
"It's fitting, it's definitely fitting," Jackson said. "He's a physical specimen. He's back on the back end, so we're trying to slow him down a little bit. He can't go flying in there like he's used to."
— Yes, Taylor Moton took some reps on the left again Friday. That's going to be a thing, as they experiment with all the combinations of offensive linemen and positions while trying to find their first five.
He was on the left for part of the one-on-ones against the defensive linemen and pass-rushers (a drill that heavily favors the defense, especially when they're not into the full-contact portion of camp).
Matched up against Haason Reddick (who is 90 pounds lighter and many times quicker), Moton got into his pass set quickly and did not look out of place.
Whether he ends up on the left will be a decision that takes time, and honestly depends on many things other than Moton.
— During the early stages of practice, when positions work on technical things independently, quarterbacks throw at a large net, which has pockets in which perfect passes can land.
Will Grier was machine-like during the drills, showing great accuracy and dropping several into the pockets.
It's at least an indicator of his accuracy, though it's a just a drill.
— Tight end Ian Thomas made a nice play, but it shows the danger of only seeing highlights. He was working against the third-team defensive backs when he took one to the end zone, making the fans on the hill ooh and ahh.
Later, in team drills with the starters, he had a drop, which didn't get as much notice.
Thomas has had a good offseason, and is showing up early every day and catching balls on the Jugs machine each day. On the whole, his work has been good.
— Perryman did his interview Friday morning while wearing a mask, and admitted being one of the few unvaccinated players on the roster.
Perryman said it was a personal decision not to be vaccinated, and that he understood the limitations placed on him because of it.
Unvaccinated players have to test daily, have to mask while in the team facility, and cannot eat with teammates, among other inconveniences.
"Yeah, but at the end of the day, it was my choice," Perryman said. "I know unvaccinated players can't do this and can't do that, ... It is what it is. It doesn't bother me, because it was my choice."
— Rookie defensive tackle Phil Hoskins was back on the practice field, working on the side with the team's performance staff. He's still on the active/physically unable to perform list because of a foot injury, but it appears he's closer to a return.
Wide receiver Robbie Anderson was back on the field Friday, after missing Thursday's practice with an illness.
View photos from Friday's practice of training camp at Wofford.