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Camp Observations: Robbie Anderson speeding up in camp 


SPARTANBURG, S.C. – Robbie Anderson had an extra swagger in his step during Tuesday's practice.

The sixth practice of training camp brought with it one of the Panthers' biggest plays in Spartanburg, when Anderson caught a long pass from Baker Mayfield in double coverage.

Anderson's speed paired well with Mayfield's arm, and the two shared quick conversations after reps throughout the day.

Head coach Matt Rhule said Anderson has been doing a "great job" improving his grasp on the offense throughout camp, and with Tuesday's big play, Anderson is showing off what he's learned.

"He has a better grasp now, after being here for a week, of what he's supposed to do, the technique he's supposed to do it with, being very coachable, playing fast," Rhule said. "He looks fast."

Tuesday was Mayfield's day to work with the first-team offense, after Sam Darnold took the reins on Monday. Rhule said tomorrow they'll "mix" the first- and second-team reps, all part of the plan while they're in the install phase under Ben McAdoo's offense.

Rhule said they're about "75 percent of the way there" with installing the offense, and the quarterbacks will be rotated in and out every day once the next phase is underway.

But the chemistry is starting to show between the Panthers' new quarterback and some of their pieces – even if Rhule can see how big plays can be both a positive and a negative.

"As the head coach, I'm always like, 'Great to see them connect. Hey, why did they get behind us?'" Rhule said. "So there's always a duality to that, but that was good to see those guys connect."

– Cornerback Jaycee Horn is continuing on his "day-by-day" comeback schedule as he works to rejoin practice in a full capacity since being activated off of the PUP list on Monday.

Horn, who is dealing with lingering soreness after last year's season-ending foot injury, participated in the early periods of practice, but worked on the sidelines doing conditioning during most of the team work.

"The doctors are handling it," Rhule said. "But all signs were good yesterday."

Horn was the Panthers' first-round pick of the 2021 draft and started in three games before breaking his foot at Houston. He said he's working to take it slow so he'll be ready for Week 1.

"It's feeling good," Horn said. "Just trying to take it (day) by day, because training camp is a heavy load. We are here every day on our feet, so I'm just trying to manage it and make sure I can ramp my way up."

– Regarding injury updates, Keith Taylor Jr. came out to practice in a red jersey and did not participate Tuesday. Rhule said Taylor was working through a "lower hamstring strain," and estimated he would be out for one or two weeks, depending on his recovery.

Running back D'Onta Foreman finished practice on exercise bikes alongside Horn. Foreman had his foot and/or ankle examined midway through practice. Cornerback Duke Dawson was on the sidelines late in the practice as well getting checked.

– With Taylor's injury, the Panthers brought in another piece in the cornerback room, signing rookie free agent Devin Jones for depth.

Rhule said he feels good about the first three at the spot – Horn, Donte Jackson, and CJ Henderson– but the battle for a fourth slot is underway.

– The defense came up with two more interceptions Tuesday – one off of both Mayfield and Darnold.

Mayfield was picked off by linebacker Frankie Luvu in a two-minute drill. A Darnold pass was tipped by Stantley Thomas-Oliver III before landing in Kenny Robinson's grip in a strong showing for the Panthers' secondary.

— Pads went on Monday, and Tuesday brought the first real day of offensive line vs. defensive line one-on-ones.

Those drills make for some good video, but it's important to watch them in the context that they're heavily weighted toward the defensive side. For instance, if defensive end Brian Burns blows past someone, it's largely because Brian Burns is very fast and has one of the best first steps in the league. Likewise, defensive tackle Matt Ioannidis is very strong, so a one-on-one with a center or guard who doesn't have help isn't the kind of thing you can't always count on seeing during a game. But both those guys looked good in the drill, with Ioannidis getting a good push on Brady Christensen when he was taking a rep at guard.

Rookies Ikem Ekwonu and Cade Mays held up well for the most part, and if there's a visible difference in this camp, it's the increased level of competition on the offensive line

For a team that struggled to find capable starters last year (and used 14 different starting lineups in 17 games), there's clearly more depth and better top-end talent.

— Tuesday was the second day in full pads, and the blessed cloud cover of Monday was nowhere to be seen.

As a result, there were a couple of near-confrontations between teammates before cooler heads prevailed, with some offensive players taking exception to a Robinson shot downfield.

That kind of jawing at each other is common, especially when it was as hot as it was by the end of Tuesday's session. Inevitably, somebody will take a poke at someone. You like the competitiveness, until it gets out of hand and you don't.

— There were some splash plays by wide receivers Tuesday, but reserve Brandon Zylstra had a back-to-back sequence in which he kept his toes down and made an impressive grab on the sideline, and then got down the seam for a long gain across the middle.

Zylstra has extreme value on special teams (including emergency kicker duty), but is a capable option on offense as well.

View photos from the second padded practice on Tuesday, August 2 at camp.

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