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Notebook: Frank Reich "finalizing" plans for reps in last preseason game 

Shaq Thompson, Frank Reich

CHARLOTTE – Frank Reich is still working out the details, but the picture is becoming clearer on the Panthers' plan for distributing the workload in their last preseason game Friday against the Lions.

Reich said in a press conference Sunday that he's collaborating with coaches and general manager Scott Fitterer on how it'll go, but the current leaning is that the plan for Detroit will be similar to that for the Jets and Giants.

"I haven't totally nailed it down," Reich said. "Still talking to the coaches about that. Scott and I visited for a while last night, just talking about the plan for this game. So getting closer to finalizing that plan. But I would anticipate it'll be similar to what we've done the last two games. But again, we'll work out the details here in the next 24 hours."

They've been giving the first-team offense, led by rookie quarterback Bryce Young and a host of new skill players, including free agent acquisitions Adam Thielen, DJ Chark Jr., and Hayden Hurst, as well as rookie Jonathan Mingo, two or three series, depending on snap counts.

The first-team offense played for three drives against the Jets, looking for success after failing to cross the 50-yard line. They played two series at the Giants, marching down to New York's 10-yard line before a series of mishaps set up for a field goal try instead of a touchdown.

Young has attempted just 12 passes as his workload remained at six throws in each of the first two preseason games.

Young said Friday that he had trust in whatever assignment the coaches give him against Detroit, and Reich said Sunday those decisions are also collaborative efforts with players.

"As coaches, I think we have a great relationship with our players," Reich said. "On one hand, there's a chain of command; coaches will run the show. But on the other hand, it's a collaboration. And I think we've communicated that well.

"I think we've displayed that, and they felt the collaboration and that we'll talk through stuff. But they hopefully have also felt like, 'Oh, these guys know what they want and what they're doing.' So it should feel like both those things."

With three weeks separating the Panthers' season opener at Atlanta, Reich said there's no way of completely assessing where they are at this point in the preseason.

He said it'll take regular-season action to get that full evaluation, but he's confident in all they've put together thus far.

"We're not going to really know (where we are) until we get to the regular season," Reich said. "But I feel good about every step of the process – about what we're doing in practice, in our meetings, in every phase, in every area. Feel like we've made good progress as far as cleaning up details of what it takes to play winning football. But until you get to the regular season, you don't really fully know until you're tested in every way."

– Reich didn't have updates on players injured during the Giants game. He said the team is taking ankle injuries to cornerback Donte Jackson and running back Chuba Hubbard "day by day."

– While Eddy Piñeiro continued to recover from a groin injury sustained late in training camp, replacement kicker Matthew Wright made both of his field goal attempts against the Giants.

Reich hasn't wavered on their commitment to Piñeiro, who stayed on the roster after coming in for former kicker Zane Gonzalez amid his season-ending injury last preseason.

But at the same time, he's also encouraged by what Wright showed.

"Eddy's our kicker," Reich said. "I've said that from the start that he's our kicker. He's earned that. He's proven it. But it's great, you know, Wright's done a great job, had a good game. We obviously had the kick out of bounds, but other than that, he kicked well. So it's a great opportunity for him.

"And you'd never want Eddy to have a recurrence of this injury, but if he does, at least we have a better idea."

– Rookie guard Chandler Zavala evaluated his first taste of preseason action. 

He played at right guard in place of injured starter Austin Corbett alongside the first-team offensive line against the Giants, slotting into the lineup after recovering from a hamstring injury that sidelined him throughout most of training camp.

"I think I did well in a lot of areas of my game," Zavala said. "I was OK. For not being in pads for like eight months – it was (my) second day in pads – I did OK. But I could do a lot better."

Zavala had only participated in a single padded practice before he started on Friday, practicing throughout the week before traveling to New York.

He said getting that first taste of action against the Giants helped him reorient to the game. 

"I had the pads on last week, but it was one time," Zavala said. "I needed like one (hit) just to get rolling."

– Ikem Ekwonu shared his routine for recuperating from a bad play, such as the sack he allowed Kayvon Thibodeaux to get against Young on Friday.

"When there's a play like that, and it's obviously glaring – the obvious mistake I made, I like to watch that a lot and talk with some of the coaches about what I could have done better," Ekwonu said. "Obviously (with the sack), it wasn't necessarily technique, which was a good thing, (it) was more just the mental aspect of it. So really locking into the call, that's really the only thing you can do in that situation."

He said he moves on immediately while he's on the field – whether the play was good or bad – to keep himself going forward.

"(I'm) treating every play like it's a brand new play, like it's the start of a drive," Ekwonu said. "I try to carry that mindset with me; flush whatever happened, good, bad, ugly, just flush it and move on to the next play."

– Reich reiterated his confidence in Ekwonu at left tackle despite the second-year lineman's mistakes in the first two preseason games, including last weekend's sack.

"I have no concerns about him playing winning football and being one of the true anchors to our offensive line," Reich said. "The year he had last year, the training camp that he's had. Not only is he going to be a really good player for us, I think he's going to be a good leader. We have had a couple of miscues that he's been involved in. But those things will get worked out."

Check out scenes from the Panthers' second preseason game against the New York Giants.

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