The Friday afternoon practice session featured helmets instead of ball caps, which led to a more competitive environment. Rookies Marquis Haynes and Kendrick Norton had nice moments during one-on-one pass rush, but Efe Obada was the standout D-lineman. A product of the NFL’s International Pathway Program, Obada appears to have learned a thing or two after a year on Carolina’s practice squad, and he kicked off the practice with a motivational message to the defensive line.
We saw the first of what should be many head-to-head battles between first-round receiver DJ Moore and second-round cornerback Donte Jackson. Head coach Ron Rivera is eager to see how they’ll make each other better. “They’ll push one another,” Rivera said. “Both guys are going through the same situation, especially high picks. And one thing I will say – I’ve been very pleased watching our veterans work out and the young guys – we’ve got a lot of speed and I’m pretty fired up about that.”
During the team period, Moore caught a pass over the middle and turned upfield for what would have been a big gain. The real strength of Moore’s game is his ability to produce yards after the catch through broken or missed tackles, and we won’t get to see that in action until the preseason. For now, we can only imagine the big plays he could be creating.
- Ian Thomas, whose best moment of the day was a contested grab over the middle, is going to be hearing tight end coach Pete Hoener’s voice a lot over the next few months. Friday, one of Hoener’s lessons to Thomas was about lowering his target to create leverage on run blocks. After that, he was not so subtly reminded to run – not jog – through his route for a pass that landed out of reach. Tight end is a demanding position, especially at this level. And especially under Hoener.
“I think the hardest part about playing tight end is running 30 yards downfield and then coming back and blocking,” Thomas said with a laugh. “That’s by far the hardest thing, ever. A lot of energy and a lot of mental things to pick up. A lot that goes into it.”
- Quarterback Kyle Allen was sharp early in the practice session, firing a strike to Moore on a comeback (and credit to Moore for running such a crisp route and working back to the ball). But Allen’s accuracy faded a bit as the session wore on, missing targets with some late or overthrown passes. The defensive backs made it tough on Allen also, as cornerbacks Brad Watson and Ty Griffin each came up with well-timed pass breakups.
- Former UNC Charlotte running back Kalif Phillips, here as an invited tryout, raised some eyebrows with a nice leaping grab down the sideline. The 220-pounder is known more for his running between the tackles, but that was a slick play.
Running back Elijah Hood had a tough sequence during the team period. Hood had the ball stripped on consecutive plays. Jackson scooped up the first one for a score and safety Damian Parms pounced on the second.
Jackson, the former LSU corner full of personality, is tremendously fun to watch. One of my favorite moments from practice was when he started vigorously pumping up a nonexistent crowd in between plays. This guy, man.
Invited tryout wide receiver Bug Howard, who has intriguing size and athletic ability, performed some self-mandated push-ups after dropping a pass over the middle.