CHARLOTTE – Defensive end Marquis Haynes didn't need to redshirt at Ole Miss – he was a member of the Freshman All-America team after posting 7.5 sacks – but he's going through a redshirt year of sorts as a rookie in the NFL.
"I'm treating it like a redshirt learning opportunity," said Haynes, who was selected in the fourth round of the 2017 draft. "I'm working toward next year and also want to be ready when my name is called."
Haynes' number was called this past week against the Lions and he played 15 snaps in Carolina's 20-19 loss. It was just the second time all season Haynes has been active.
"That was in an effort to find out what the young man can do," head coach Ron Rivera said. "We've got three young guys (Efe Obada, Bryan Cox Jr. and Haynes), and we've got to find out if they can play in this league and they've got to be able to develop. The only way that they can is if you play young guys.
"We had an extra spot. I wanted to see a little more of Bryan Cox but also wanted to give Marquis a chance to play, especially on the (Ford Field) turf. Real explosive guy."
When asked about Haynes' performance, defensive coordinator Eric Washington mentioned one play that highlighted the rookie's athletic ability.
It was third-and-11 early in the third quarter, and Haynes was lined up against the right tackle. Linebacker Luke Kuechly blitzed, forcing Stafford to duck under and scramble off the right side. That's when Haynes disengaged and hustled to chase down Stafford short of the sticks for his first career tackle.
"His speed really showed up there," Washington said.
Haynes is still working to make that speed show up in his pass-rush technique.
"We wanted to try and utilize Marquis' speed as an edge rusher, that's why we brought him here," Washington said. "There were a couple times where we saw that show up and there were times where he can do some things from a technique standpoint in terms of his rush angles, being a little bit tighter."
Haynes knows his speed is a weapon. It's his biggest asset and it's how he racked up a school-record 32 sacks at Ole Miss.
But when an NFL offensive tackle gets his hands on him, Haynes needs to find another way to get to the quarterback.
"My counter is going to have to work," Haynes said. "I can't slow down."
Developing counter moves is a top priority. The only thing higher on the to-do list is gaining weight.
Haynes came to Carolina as a 235-pound defensive end, and he said his goal is to reach 250 before the season ends.
"I ain't far," Haynes said.
A bigger, stronger Haynes with more counter moves in his arsenal is what the Panthers hope to see in 2019. Until then, Haynes will have to be patient and make the most of limited opportunities.
"It's not even frustrating. I understand. This is a learning period for me," Haynes said. "The main thing for me is gaining weight. I've focused on gaining weight and getting stronger. And when my name is called I have to go out there and perform."