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Jeremy Chinn hoping big plays "come to me"

Jeremy Chinn

CHARLOTTE – Jeremy Chinn said he was "antsy" to return to the field. Now, he's ready to start making plays again, but trying not to force it.

The Panthers' third-year safety and first-year team captain missed six games – the most prolonged absence of his career – while on injured reserve with a hamstring injury sustained against the Cardinals in Week 4.

He has been back for four games, playing 100 percent of defensive snaps in each. But through the eight games he has played in, Chinn has no interceptions, no forced or recovered fumbles, and one sack.

For a player who made is share of game-changing plays his first two years, it's been a noticeable departure.

And he said now it's about shaping his mindset to refocus on his responsibilities rather than trying to make a huge splash.

"I just felt like I was so behind the clock," Chinn said. "So I really wanted to come in and make a play, make a play, make a play, instead of just focusing on my job and just doing my responsibility the best way I know how to.

"(I'm) just not looking for that play; really just doing my job each and every single day, each and every single play, and letting that play come to me."

The Panthers' leading tackler last season put up a team-leading 14 tackles in last Sunday's loss to Pittsburgh. He also missed a few. But there's much more that goes into getting to where he wants to be than raw numbers.

Interim defensive coordinator Al Holcomb said he sees plenty of room for Chinn to improve, from keeping his eyes locked into the right place to understanding coverage calls. 

"At the end of the day, he'd be the first to tell you, if you ask him, that he's got to play better in critical situations," Holcomb said. "We constantly talk about our weapons, and one of the things that we constantly talk about with Jeremy is just having his eyes in the right position. If his eyes are in the right position, you're going to see him come up (and) make some big-time plays for us."

Chinn explained that the defense has four "weapons" – eyes, hands, hips, and feet – and that there are points of emphasis for each. 

In particular, Holcomb explained how Chinn needed to overcome what he calls "eye candy," where teams try to distract the defense with shifts and pre-snap motions.

"The way offenses present things to a defense today, there are a lot of shifts and motions," Holcomb said. "We refer to the shifts and motions as kind of like eye candy. So it gets your eyes in one spot when they're trying to distract you. Then boom, they're running the play over here.

"That's the key thing there – just having great eye discipline, not having dirty eyes." 

Holcomb said he didn't entirely attribute Chinn's time on IR to his lack of big plays since returning.

Chinn wouldn't let the injury be the single explanation, either. He said he's paying close attention to his weapons, working on letting big plays come to him, and seeing the "whole picture" before the Lions game Saturday. 

"I feel like that's nothing but an excuse," Chinn said. "Everybody has things they go through. This is my obstacle. I'll continue to get better as the season goes, continuing to improve each and every single day. That's really been my focus – putting the injury behind me and just focusing on what's ahead."

View photos from Tuesday's practice as the Panthers prepare to take on the Lions.

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