Camp observations: Practice turns into scrimmage

Observations

SPARTANBURG — Thursday's practice, their final one of the week before they return to Charlotte for Friday's Fan Fest, was different from anything they've done down during training camp at Wofford College.

They generally have large chunks of practice devoted to instruction and individual drills, but those things were largely absent Thursday.

As soon as they finished stretching, they went into an extended team period, turning the day into what amounted to a scrimmage.

"I thought they just needed to get out and play some football," Panthers head coach Matt Rhule said. "Drills are great, and 9-on-7 is great, and I like those things, but sometimes you have to get out there and play and put things on tape and see what we're doing well and not doing well.

"Seeing guys against different groups. Our guys like to compete, so we just put the ball down and played today."

There were periods in which threes were practicing against ones, to see how certain players would compete.

There was also some emphasis near the end of practice on some of the fine points, as they did at minicamp. At the end of a two-minute period, Rhule took a snap, and chunked one over the line of scrimmage to simulate a blocked field goal to make sure players were situationally aware.

In general, it was another solid day for the offense, though Rhule mentioned being tired of a few penalties. For the second straight day, Sam Darnold led the entire first offense to run to the DBO sign, their reminder to "Don't Beat Ourselves" which they installed this week.

Tight end Dan Arnold continued to make plays, and establish himself as a legitimate target, among many here. But the most impressive plays might have been a few Christian McCaffrey runs, including one long touchdown run which led to another big group spike from Taylor Moton.

— The Panthers had another player carted off the practice field Thursday, and there are enough injuries that they're beginning to pile up at certain spots.

Defensive end Austin Larkin was hurt during Thursday's work and had to be taken off the field. Rhule said the early word was that it was a groin injury, and he didn't know how serious it would be.

The player with the longest anticipated absence is veteran cornerback A.J. Bouye, and Rhule said he could miss "a couple weeks" with a strain after he went down in practice earlier this week.

The Panthers are also monitoring the situations of linebackers Shaq Thompson and Denzel Perryman, leaving just Jermaine Carter among the top-of-the-depth chart group.

Thompson graduated to the green jersey Thursday, which normally translates to limited participation. Rhule said "hopefully soon," when asked about Thompson's possible return.

Perryman didn't practice either with what Rhule described as a strain, which left Clay Johnston working with the first defense.

They were also without wide receiver Keith Kirkwood and running back Darius Clark, who suffered concussions Tuesday. Clark had also graduated to the green jersey for Thursday's work.

Austin Larkin

— Speaking of stacking up, new fullback Rod Smith was at practice Thursday morning, joining running back Rodney Smith in a group guaranteed to create confusion.

Then again, offensive coordinator Joe Brady also has to lead meetings which feature David Moore and David Moore and DJ Moore, so at least he has experience.

At least running back Spencer Brown and guard Deonte Brown are different enough in size to tell apart at a distance.

— Defensive tackle DaQuan Jones had a veteran's day off, with Bravvion Roy working with the ones throughout practice.

Jones has quickly established himself as one of the consciences of this place. Rhule has made several mentions of his leadership, appreciating the perspective he brings from playing for Titans teams which went from 2-14 his rookie year to playoff regulars.

He also likes how hard Jones goes in practice.

"I watched him on tape yesterday," Rhule said of the 29-year-old. "He was sprinting to the ball down the field, . . . so I gave him today."

Jones got a lift and some rehab in early, and came out in a T-shirt and baseball cap later to watch the second half of practice.

— The old NFL adage is "the more you can do," and wide receiver Robbie Anderson added to his skill set Thursday.

To punctuate a touchdown midway through practice, Anderson punted the ball away to celebrate. Joseph Charlton doesn't have much to worry about, but it wasn't a bad leg.

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

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