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Notebook: Extra work on tackling Thursday

Jeremy Chinn

CHARLOTTE — When Panthers defensive coordinator Phil Snow was asked about run defense Thursday, he mentioned taking a "back to basics" approach.

After giving up 217 rushing yards to the Browns, and with Giants running back Saquon Barkley coming off a 164-yard day, that's probably what's called for.

So Panthers safety Jeremy Chinn wasn't necessarily surprised that Thursday's practice included some intense fundamental work on that particular skill.

"We did tackling drills today, getting after it a little bit. Keeping that physical edge," Chinn said.

Chinn said that while it's not necessarily normal to have that kind of work in Week 2, it also wasn't unexpected.

"Yeah, for sure," he said. "Guys know it in here. We know we've got to tackle better. When we get to those tackling drills, it's like OK, let's take this time and get better at it."

Panthers head coach Matt Rhule said they counted 18 missed tackles last week and 190 yards after first contact for the Browns, so having that kind of emphasis in Thursday's padded practice makes sense.

"The stuff we put out on Sunday, it looked bad, all the tackles we missed," linebacker Damien Wilson said. "We missed a lot of tackles that professional athletes should be able to make. We're going to practice what you need to practice. If you were playing basketball and blew all your layups in a game, you're going to practice layups."

That extra work carried over into watching film. Defensive end Brian Burns said that at linebacker Shaq Thompson's suggestion, the linemen and linebackers watched the tape together to get a clearer idea of their perspective. He said there have been similar meetings in the past, but not this early in a season.

"So we watched it with them, and I feel like everybody's on one page," Burns said. "I wouldn't say it's rare. But it happens. So like the D-line to get together because there's more than just the run that we're wanting to watch, and us working our games and going through our rushes doesn't have anything really to do with the linebackers, so we'll knock all that out just together. But we really need to attack the run game with the linebackers because they'll give us certain calls and certain things that they see. And we need that.

"Just so we know what they're thinking. So when we get in certain situations, certain formations that we see, it might be a call that they want to give us, or a line movement, anything like that. And we need to know pretty much what they're thinking so we can stay on the same page as them."

— New Panthers kicker Eddy Piñeiro delivered when he needed to last week, hitting the fourth-quarter field goal to give the Panthers the lead with 1:13 left in the game. But it wasn't a perfect debut, as he also hit an earlier kickoff out of bounds to give the Browns the ball at the 40-yard-line and led to a field goal.

In 2019, when special teams coach Chris Tabor and Piñeiro were together with the Bears, Piñeiro followed his first field goal in the opener for Chicago by kicking off out of bounds as well.

"Not to say I was mentally prepared for that, but I was kind of mentally prepared for that," Tabor said Thursday. "That can't happen. And we're working hard to fix that. That's a work in progress, but we'll get that done."

He was very encouraged by the late field goal though (Piñeiro hit game-winner at Denver that year) and said Piñeiro's range last week was between 53 and 55 yards.

"No question. He has that in him," Tabor said. "I've been there with him in that situation, and he can do that. So I was proud of him.

"Eddy can kick the ball. Eddy can kick it. We're still working through some things, and hopefully, he's trending in the right direction. He kicked well yesterday, so we'll do some Jiffy Lube drills today."

Asked to explain the origin of the oil drill (good thing the kicker's not named Derrick), Tabor said it's all the fundamentals and "muscle memory stuff" that doesn't include the impact of actually kicking a ball.

"You go in, quick oil change, make sure your car's running properly," Tabor said. "That's how we came up with that. We should get a sponsor for that."

— Snow mentioned that he has experience prepping for Barkley, and played against him twice at Penn State.

Barkley only carried one time in a meeting his freshman year, and in 2016, Barkley gained 68 yards and a touchdown on nine carries.

They also tried to recruit him to Temple, and thought they had an in since Barkley's girlfriend was a lacrosse player there.

That wasn't enough to entice him away from playing for the Nittany Lions.

"We did, but it didn't work," Snow said with a laugh when asked about the extra recruiting edge. "Penn State had too much power."

— Offensive coordinator Ben McAdoo said he was impressed with the way quarterback Baker Mayfield bounced back from a rough first 25 minutes of the game and finished last week's game, even if the comeback fell a little short.

"Baker showed his fight; he showed his competitiveness. He's a tremendous leader," McAdoo said. "You saw the fight in him, right? Things didn't go well, and you saw the fight in him and the rest of the team. You saw how important, not just to him but everybody, how hard they played and how bad they wanted to win. I think that's an encouraging sign for us.

"There's nothing more irrelevant in life than the score at halftime. We've just got to keep playing and keep fighting, and not worry about the scoreboard, just focus on the next down."

View photos from Thursday's practice as the Panthers prepare to take on the Giants this weekend.

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