How "athletic freak" Eric Reid can help counter powerful offenses

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CHARLOTTE – After his first practice in Carolina, Eric Reid made it clear – he’s not going to stick to football. And as the Eagles proved last year, speaking up about societal issues and playing good football aren't mutually exclusive.

So what kind of player are the Panthers getting in Reid?

One word, in particular, stood out on Monday. Bet you can spot it in these quotes.

Cornerback Donte Jackson: “He’s very, very smart.”

Head coach Ron Rivera: “Eric's a smart player. He's shown that he's picking it up very quickly.”

Safety Mike Adams: “Just being around him, I can tell he's smart. We've only had one practice, but that's my evaluation.”

Cornerback Captain Munnerlyn: “He’s a very smart guy. I learned that just being around him this morning. We (were) going over film, and with some of the questions he was asking and they were asking him about how he sees things, I was like, ‘Wow, this guy is very intelligent. He knows the game of football.’”

So Reid is smart. He’s also bigger than your prototypical safety.

“I was like, ‘You’ve got to weigh like 230,’ because he looks like he’s just been lifting weights,” Munnerlyn said.

Actually, Reid is listed at 6-foot-1, 215 pounds. But point taken.

“He’s huge,” wide receiver Torrey Smith said. “An athletic freak.”

Which will help against the run, where the Panthers have been relatively leaky early this season.

“He's a big, physical player, so that's right up our alley in terms of the priority to stop the run first,” defensive coordinator Eric Washington said. “So when he's rotated in the box, he's going to be a physical presence.”

That size makes him more than a banger in the box, though.

“It's going to be tough to throw over him, especially when he's an underneath defender,” Washington said. “With the quick passing game, a quarterback's got to throw through a guy like that.”

Reid’s also more than just big and smart. He’s quick and rangy in coverage, giving the Panthers a unique Swiss Army knife in the secondary.

“(He) can play in the post, he can play the deep half, or he can play up in the box,” Rivera said. “With his ability to play in the box, and his skill set to run, you can play him as a big nickel. So it gives us position flexibility with him.

“Once he learns and understands the feel, I think you get another field general back there with he and (Adams). I think those two guys will be a pretty formidable group.”

That possibility, combined with the early-season play of Jackson and James Bradberry at cornerback, gives the Panthers a badly needed counter in the NFC South, where the Saints, Buccaneers and Falcons all sit inside the top seven in scoring after the first month of the season.

“(Reid) was a missing piece,” Munnerlyn said. “We definitely got guys that can play, but I do feel like he can help this group grow a little bit more.”

Added Jackson: “It says a lot about our front office. It says that they want us to be a Super Bowl-winning team. Any time you get talent like that, we're going in the right direction.

“He makes an already good secondary better.”

View photos of the Panthers' newest safety during his five seasons with the 49ers. Photos courtesy of Associated Press.

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