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Carolina Panthers

Notebook: Ejiro Evero praises Derrick Brown's "special" effort 

Ejiro Evero

CHARLOTTE – Defensive coordinator Ejiro Evero came out of Sunday's season opener against the Falcons with some positive notes.

And plenty of the comments Evero shared in Thursday's press conference included heaping praise upon defensive tackle Derrick Brown.

Brown had a strong game against the Falcons, totaling eight tackles – including two tackles for loss – a quarterback hit, and a dominant sack against Atlanta quarterback Desmond Ridder to pin the Atlanta offense back 13 yards just before halftime.

"Derrick was stout; Derrick showed some rush," Evero said. "And the best thing I thought he did was hustle to the ball. … He plays really, really hard. He's always chasing the ball. And for a big man to play that many plays and play with that effort is pretty special."

The Panthers' defense wasn't on the field an overwhelming amount last week (52 snaps), but Brown played in all but two of them – giving him 96 percent of the playing time.

Evero said he wants the entire defensive front, including Shy Tuttle and DeShawn Williams in starting roles alongside Brown, and Nick Thurman and LaBryan Ray as backups, in a solid rotation as the season progresses. 

It's beneficial for several reasons, both within the context of one game and looking ahead to the entire season. 

"You always want to have some type of rotation," Evero said. "Obviously, our number one guys are going to play a little bit more. … (But you) give them the rest so they're at their best at the end of the game, and also so they can last through the season."

Evero said he liked how Brown created matchup issues for multiple players on an opposing offense. 

Brown's the kind of guy they'll play on a guard, center, or even a tight end, Evero explained. 

And that makes his effort even more of a critical aspect to building up their 3-4 front here. 

"When you talk about matchups, you're trying to get matchups in coverage, you're trying to get matchups on the second level, and it's no different up front," Evero said. "When you have a guy like Derrick that could play all the way across. Like, you get him lined up on a tight end; they definitely don't want to deal with him, right? And then you could play him on guards, centers, wherever you feel like you want to get that matchup to exploit. It's really great to have a guy like him that has that flexibility."

– The Panthers added more cornerback depth Thursday amid the uncertainty around starter Jaycee Horn's hamstring injury, signing Sam Webb to the 53-man roster from the Raiders' practice squad.

Webb's a 25-year-old second-year corner who played in all 17 games for Las Vegas as an undrafted rookie from Missouri Western.

He started in three of them, broke up three passes, and forced a fumble before being released at cuts to the Raiders' initial 53-man roster and brought back to the practice squad.

Webb was called over to the Panthers as the Raiders were away from Las Vegas, staying at the Greenbrier Resort in West Virginia ahead of their matchup at Buffalo. It created a unique circumstance for Webb, who came straight from West Virginia to Charlotte for his first practice Thursday.

"It's crazy going all through it again," he said. "I didn't think I was going to have to (restart), but of course, whatever you've got to do, you've got to do. I'm going to make it happen regardless.

"But it's good though. The guys are all cool. They've been showing me around and telling me stuff."

Despite the quick turnaround, Webb said he was excited to be at Carolina because of the chance to come directly onto the active roster instead of on a practice squad, like he was with Las Vegas.

Now, it's down to him learning as quickly as possible to make a fast impact in a room alongside Donte Jackson, CJ Henderson, and Troy Hill.

"I just want to learn the playbook as fast as I can and get comfortable," Webb said. "Other than that, we all understand that stuff like this can happen. So me being able to adjust will be one of my stronger attributes."

– Special teams coordinator Chris Tabor said Thursday he wasn't surprised by the low number of kickoff returns around the league in Week 1, not attributing it entirely to the rule change, which states that players can now call for a fair catch on kickoffs, with the resulting possession beginning at the team's 25-yard line. 

Tabor said that changing rosters at the beginning of the season could be one of the reasons, saying that a lower number of returns isn't surprising within the first four weeks.

"We're playing those guys, and sometimes just kind of getting the kids' feet wet," Tabor said. "I'm not surprised by it." 

– Tabor had many complimentary things to say about new practice squad running back Tarik Cohen, with whom he had a close relationship while he played in Chicago. Cohen earned first-team All-Pro nods in 2019 as a return specialist under Tabor's tutelage. 

As for the role Cohen would play at Carolina, Tabor said he wasn't sure what to expect from him yet. (Cohen hasn't played since 2020 after sustaining multiple injuries.) 

But Tabor said the ever-changing aspect of the NFL lends itself to Cohen having a potential role in the future. 

"I think our job right now – I know it's a coaching mantra, but just try to win today," Tabor said. "And get the guys a little bit better today. And that'll kind of lend itself to wherever it goes. But (I'm) excited to get him back out on the field and start working with him."

– Offensive coordinator Thomas Brown said he left Atlanta impressed with how the offensive line performed. 

He praised the entire group when asked about individual improvements by left tackle Ikem Ekwonu and center Bradley Bozeman and gave a specific shoutout to how they performed during run plays, helping lay out pathways for Miles Sanders and Chuba Hubbard. 

"I would say the overall O-line in general, just the mentality we try to instill in those guys, (offensive line coach James Campen) obviously leading that room up, I thought it was really good from a physicality standpoint," Brown said. "(I) thought the execution went well, as far as making sure we IDed the right way; the combination work was good, pushing the pile."

The lineup will look different this week, as the Panthers will be without starting left guard Bradley Bozeman, who went on IR this week with a biceps injury. They started rookie Chandler Zavala at right guard against Atlanta in starter Austin Corbett's place while he recovers from an ACL injury.

– Tight end Hayden Hurst offered his perspective on what happened to the ball Bryce Young threw his first touchdown with in Atlanta. 

Young completed his first touchdown pass to Hurst, who proceeded to toss the ball into a crowd of Falcons fans. But Hurst said they promptly returned it back, and he heard some jeers from fans of the team he used to play with. 

"You guys know me; I just play with a lot of emotion," Hurst said. "Got caught up in the moment, I completely forgot. Launched it into the seats, but luckily, the Atlanta fans booed me and threw it back at me. …

"I definitely launched it. As soon as I got to the sideline, I kind of thought about it, and I was like, 'Oh, it's his first one.' But at least they threw it back at me."

View photos from the Panthers' practice on Thursday.

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