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Offense sputters during Day 2 in Nashville


NASHVILLE -- How poor did the Panthers' offense look during Thursday's joint practice in Tennessee?

Well, when wide receiver Kelvin Benjamin caught a 2-yard touchdown from quarterback Derek Anderson at the end of the session, Titans linebacker Wesley Woodyard labeled it "a participation medal" for the visitors.

"We have a standard that is higher than that for sure," said running back Christian McCaffrey, summarizing the offense's lackluster performance.

Head coach Ron Rivera was even more pointed.

"Yesterday there were some really good things and today there were some things that were terrible," he said. "We can't have that. If we expect to win football games, we can't do the things that we did today."

Those things included multiple drops by wide receiver Damiere Byrd and tight end Chris Manhertz, a rusty Cam Newton in 7-on-7s and a penalty on wideout Kaelin Clay, who spiked the ball after he skied between two defenders to grab a bomb from quarterback Joe Webb during a two-minute drill.

"That was a deserved penalty. You don't do that kind of (BS), and I'll have a conversation with him about that, too," Rivera said. "It makes no sense cause now you're in a situation where you need to move the ball forward and you just went backwards 15 yards."

To be fair, the Panthers were playing without some of their most important pieces. Newton again sat out team drills and running back Jonathan Stewart, tight end Greg Olsen and center Ryan Kalil were all given vet days.

"Those are guys that you count on to come out on the football field and help create that cohesiveness," Rivera said. "Not having them out on the football field is huge."

Which makes Rivera's frustration a tough balancing act. The offense wasn't close to full strength, but a coach can't make excuses for sloppiness.

"The guys that dropped the balls were guys that had opportunities. They were good balls that got dropped. When the ball hits you in the hand, you've got to catch it," Rivera said. "If the guy's in front of you, you've got to block him. You know? Those are things that we didn't do well today, and because of it, we didn't look very good."

So how much angst needs to be taken from a practice in mid-August? It's tough to say.

Two summers ago, some felt the Dolphins dominated their joint practices with the Panthers. Miami then went 6-10 while the Panthers won 15 games en route to the Super Bowl.

But with Newton still working his way back and the regular-season opener inching closer, it's fair to wonder if the offense will be ready to roll in San Francisco. They now have just 23 more days to work toward the rhythm they were missing Thursday.

"I basically explained to them (afterward)," Rivera said, "if you expect to be great, you've got to be great every day."

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