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Carolina Panthers

Five practice observations: Day 3

FIERY START: The first day of full pads always makes for an energetic practice, and assistant head coach Steve Wilks got things started with some one-on-one intensity. The entire team formed a circle at midfield and watched three battles take place in the pit: rookie offensive tackle Daryl Williams vs. rookie defensive end Steve Miller, defensive tackle Chas Alecxih vs. guard Jordan McCray and rookie wide receiver Damiere Byrd vs. cornerback Carrington Byndom. Putting young players on the spot never fails to bring a little extra juice to practice.


Photos of the defensive line in action at practice during training camp.

TONE SETTERS:** The linemen on both sides of the ball have desperately been waiting for a chance to hit someone in pads. Veteran defensive linemen Charles Johnson and Dwan Edwards each had a few words for the group before drills began. To paraphrase, the message was, "Set the tone and dominate." Defensive end Frank Alexander, in particular, got the message. Coaches applauded his effort, and he gave offensive tackle Michael Oher some trouble. I asked Johnson what he thinks of Alexander's performance thus far and he offered necessary perspective. "Nice job," Johnson said. "Still early though."

SHAQ FLASHES: First-round pick Shaq Thompson had his best outing thus far. The rookie linebacker used his tremendous speed to run down a couple plays near the sideline. He also posted a would-be tackle for loss against the first-team offense during team drills.

PEANUT PUNCH(ES): With 42 forced fumbles to his name, cornerback Charles Tillman has earned a reputation for his uncanny ability to punch the ball out of the opposition's hands. On Sunday, Tillman saw an opportunity when quarterback Cam Newton approached on a zone-read keeper. Tillman punched the ball out of Newton's grasp, which brought about plenty of cheers from the defensive sideline.

But Newton wasn't the only one. Running back Jonathan Stewart was another victim of the "Peanut Punch." Two hands securely on the ball sometimes aren't enough when Tillman is coming your way.

"That's what he does. He is the best at it," Stewart said. "It's going to make us better."

DETAIL ORIENTED: When special teams drills are taking place Newton is usually on one of the other fields with wide receivers Kelvin Benjamin and Devin Funchess. Time is precious during practice and every little bit of extra instruction helps. On Sunday, offensive coordinator Mike Shula watched the trio closely and fine-tuned the depth of their routes.

View the top photos from the third practice of training camp at Wofford College.

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