LANDOVER, Md. — Ikem Ekwonu will take it for a first appearance. He's learning, so every day is a chance to get better.
The Panthers' first-round draft pick didn't start on Saturday against the Commanders, but he did play in his first NFL preseason game, coming in at left tackle on the second series with quarterback Sam Darnold, and playing into the second quarter.
"It was great," Ewkonu said. "Definitely an opportunity to learn and apply what I've learned at practice. Definitely felt good being out there for the first time in that Carolina Panther blue."
He laughed as he said that last part, because the N.C. State product knows what will happen to his phone if he alludes to a different shade of blue in his home state. That's one of the things he's picked up in a hurry, along with trying to balance the increased technical demands of his job with the physical skill the Panthers saw when they drafted him sixth overall.
"I feel like I've made a lot of progress, definitely in regards of my pass-protection," Ewkonu said of his rookie camp. "But really just technique all across the board, run and pass, making sure I get the technique right, learn as much as I can from the veterans about the inner nuances of playing in the league. I definitely feel like I've learned a lot.
"Right now, my physicality is the biggest part of my game, but the technique is definitely rising up there. Can't put a percentage on it, but I know I'm getting better each and every day."
— The Panthers came into the game a little thin at defensive end, with Brian Burns only playing a few snaps, and Marquis Haynes Sr. inactive. Head coach Matt Rhule said Haynes wanted to play after last week's knee injury scare, but they decided to hold him back.
That was complicated when Darryl Johnson left the game with a groin injury in the second half and didn't return. Rookie Amaré Barno also missed some time with what Rhule referred to as a stinger, but he returned to the game.
— The Panthers were also short-handed at tight end after a series of injuries and absences.
Rhule said that tight ends Ian Thomas and Colin Thompson didn't make the trip, opting to join teammate Stephen Sullivan at a family funeral. Sullivan has been excused for the last several days of practice. Rhule said he appreciated the fact the two veteran tight ends asked to go along with Sullivan to "support" their teammate.
— Rhule said the hope was that wide receiver Terrace Marshall Jr. (calf) and cornerback Keith Taylor Jr. (hamstring) would be recovered from their injuries and able to participate in next week's joint practices with the Patriots. They were among the 15 players who didn't play in Saturday's game.
— Long snapper JJ Jansen deserves a mention for snapping well and also recording two special teams tackles. The 36-year-old Jansen can still get down the field and cover.
View photos of a number of former teammates sharing moments on the field after the Carolina-Washington preseason game.