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Notebook: Frank Reich "day to day" on situation with receivers, as cuts loom

Frank Reich

CHARLOTTE – Frank Reich and the Panthers are heading into the roster cutdown date with a less-than-definite idea about what availability will look like with three key receivers sidelined with injuries.

DJ Chark Jr. (hamstring), Terrace Marshall Jr. (back), and Laviska Shenault Jr. (concussion protocol) have all missed practice within the last week and last night's game while nursing their respective injuries.

None of them have been ruled out for Week 1 at Atlanta. And Reich expressed a positive sentiment around their recovery processes in a press conference Saturday morning, after the preseason wrapped and as the new phase of the season began.

He said they're moving forward while constantly monitoring who's out there, as general manager Scott Fitterer, assistant GM Dan Morgan, and the scouting department will continue to keep a pulse on what's going on across the league as they would routinely at this time of year.

"The mindset for me is, it's kind of a combination … it is kind of a move ahead, and then if we get somebody great, it's a day-to-day thing," Reich said. "I'm encouraged by the progress that guys are making. And I think hopefully we'll get an indication in the next few days (about) how some of those guys are looking for the game against Atlanta."

As for the preseason finale, quarterback Bryce Young played with a different rotation of pass-catchers amid absences. Adam Thielen and Jonathan Mingo remained in their typical roles, but practice squad holdover Derek Wright also saw some first-team targets there.

Reich was encouraged by what he saw from Young without so many of the experienced wideouts in the game. He'd been getting work with plenty of depth pieces since the offseason program by design.

"I thought he did a great job," Reich said. "I think he's got a lot of confidence in his teammates. The thing about it is since OTAs and training camp, those receivers, he's kind of repped through with all those receivers. So that's the positive thing; as a young guy coming in, I think he's had a chance to get to work with and throw a lot of balls to every receiver on our roster. So I think he had a comfort level with all of them."

Adam Thielen

Thielen has a decade of experience in the league and spoke to the importance of depth. There's no way they're always going to be completely healthy, and learning to adjust to those bumps is beneficial for everyone – from a rookie quarterback to a veteran receiver.

"I think it's important in the NFL to have depth, you just never know," Thielen said. "Obviously, those guys are important, and they're going to be important to the success of this offense and this team. So we're hoping that they get back and all that. 

But at the end of the day, it's the teams that can handle those guys down and still find a way to win, move the ball, and score points – those are the teams that are going to have success. Because, at the end of the day, you're not going to have everyone healthy every single game. You just have to have depth, and you have to have guys that can make plays when their name is called."

– The Panthers didn't see every player across their first-team defense on the field at once in preseason, resting outside linebackers Brian Burns and Justin Houston for all three games.

They also opted to keep out most of the starting front seven in the preseason finale, including defensive tackle Derrick Brown and linebackers Shaq Thompson and Frankie Luvu.

Reich has seen Burns put in work through training camp (and during joint practice with the Jets, chronicled in the second episode of Camp Confidential, out now), and he's excited to see what the group looks like together.

"Brian has had an incredible training camp," Reich said. "You can see the type of player he is in everything that we do – in drills, in practice, in team work, pass-rush stuff. Excited to get him out there."

On top of Burns' prowess on the field, Reich also reiterated Burns as a leader, taking ownership of his position group and the defense as a whole even when he wasn't playing.

Tem Lukabu, Brian Burns, DJ Johnson

– Reich complimented the work second-year quarterback Matt Corral has put in, sitting behind Young and veteran Andy Dalton on the unofficial depth chart and taking a large number of snaps throughout the preseason.

This year's new emergency quarterback rule allows teams to carry a third on gameday that wouldn't count against the 46-man active roster (but would count against the 53) and activate him in the event of injuries to the starter and backup. Reich said it created a situation that "has to be considered" with Corral, who had a fine preseason, and he has already begun talks with Fitterer that will continue.

"(We're) really encouraged with Matt," Reich said. "I think he's made great progress. Matt's incredibly athletic. He's got a really strong arm. I think he's worked as hard as anybody in the building. He's spent a lot of time in this building. (Quarterbacks coach) Josh McCown has done a great job; those two have put a lot of time in together. …

"That's a decision that will be made here in the next couple days. There's a lot of factors that got into that, but (we're) happy with the progress that Matt has made."

Matt Corral

– Rookie running back Camerun Peoples almost had a touchdown reception late in Friday's game, but after a long replay review, he was ruled to have lost control of the ball as he landed.

By rule, it was deemed a fumble out of bounds from the end zone, resulting in a Lions touchback.

Reich called the rule "devastating," but mentioned that he instructs his team to reach toward the outside of the pylon, so that if the ball comes out, it's six inches from the end zone instead of a touchback for the other team.

"I'll give those guys a call, just to talk through that again," Reich said of the officials. "But that's been a long-standing rule. We talk a lot about that as a team. We show a lot of tape of all the plays where players are reaching for the pylon. That goes in our situational football category.

"So for instance, we say don't reach unless there are certain situations; I'm not going to go into what all those are. But we say, when you do reach when you're at the pylon, to reach to the outside of the pylon. You think, 'Well what, are you serious?' Yeah, we are very serious. We have examples of this where you can see a guy, and if you're going to reach, reach for the outside of the pylon. … But hey, (the rule has) been around forever. You don't see it come into play a whole lot. We've just got to take care of business on offense. That's the way I see it."

— Panthers players are coming in for meetings this morning after the late night. They won't practice again until Monday. Teams have to make cuts from 90 to a 53-man roster by Tuesday, and those moves could begin prior to Tuesday.

Check out photos of the Panthers during their preseason finale against the Lions.

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