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New cornerback Troy Hill expects the defense to "surprise a lot of people" 

Troy Hill

CHARLOTTE – Troy Hill has been in the NFL for a while.

He has more league experience than any of his teammates in the Panthers' secondary, as the 32-year-old cornerback has one season on Vonn Bell, the seventh-year safety (and next closest veteran in the defensive backfield).

Hill's also popped around a few teams, including the Bengals, Patriots, Browns, and – for the most prolonged period – the Rams.

He was with the Rams from 2015-20 and again in 2022, working with now-Panthers defensive coordinator Ejiro Evero and cornerbacks coach Jonathan Cooley when they were all in Los Angeles. He's familiar with the defense they've installed here and knows how the coaches operate.

So when he talks about his excitement to play with this group, it carries some extra weight.

"Being able to play in the same defense, some familiar faces, and I think it's a team that can surprise a lot of people," Hill said when asked about what drew him to the opportunity with Carolina. "That kind of excited me too. …

"Roster, things like that. People don't really expect things from us, so we come out here and work. I know the coaches who are here, and I know the type of people they are. It's always a great opportunity to be around something like that."

Hill has been a meaningful contributor in the past, leading the league with three defensive touchdowns in 2020. He came up with three interceptions and two fumble recoveries that season when he was with Evero and Cooley. It was the most productive of his eight-season career, which includes eight total interceptions and three fumble recoveries.

Troy Hill

"(They're) great coaches, very detail-oriented," Hill said. "Very straightforward with you. And they are who you're going to get every day."

When the Panthers signed Hill, they brought more stability to a group highlighted by its young talent – including starters in third-year Jaycee Horn and fifth-year Donte Jackson.

Hill said he'd already noticed a "veteran presence" from the duo, a good sign within the group he's joining.

"I've been seeing D-Jack coaching a lot of the younger players and things like that; you love to see that type of thing," Hill said. "And Jaycee, he's a standout player already at that young age, and he's only going to continue to grow. I especially believe in him with these coaches around him that can teach him a little more about some other nuances of the game and things like that."

Hill was added in late in training camp, but head coach Frank Reich said his familiarity with members of the staff and veteran experience could help him carve out a role early.

At the same time, it's always about what you show once you get here, and Reich made that clear.

"We get him at this point; it kind of gives you an indication what we're thinking," Reich said. "But then there's always the other side, right? There's always that other little side, 'Well, you've still got to go out there and do it and learn it.' So you've got to just bounce that off a little bit."

Troy Hill

Hill said he's the type of player who leads, shares knowledge, works hard, and makes plays.

But he said he also notices himself gaining a new intensity while playing. Once it's just him and the guy he's against on the field, he channels his "spirit animal" – an eagle, which he has prominently tattooed on his neck.

"Eagles fly high, and I feel like I fly high," Hill said. "It represents strength and courage. That's one of the reasons I got (the tattoo). They always do things kind of solo.

"They hunt solo. But at the same time, it's a little different because we're in this team sport. But when I'm out there, and I'm on an island, you're by yourself, so I kind of got that."

View photos of the Panthers' practice on Wednesday.

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