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Carolina Panthers

Panthers OTA Observations: Day 3


  • Like rookie minicamp, the first week of OTAs featured unusually mild weather for May in the Carolinas. On Thursday, it was downright chilly on the practice field, and the usual backdrop of Uptown Charlotte was obscured by a thick fog.
  • Defensive end Julius Peppers stayed inside because of "some veteran soreness," according to head coach Ron Rivera. Wide receiver Devin Funchess, who rolled an ankle Wednesday, also sat out.
  • Cornerback James Bradberry had an excused absence to attend his sister's graduation. Second-round receiver Curtis Samuel also remained away to deal with a family situation.
  • Captain Munnerlyn and fifth-round pick Corn Elder took turns filling in for Bradberry across from Daryl Worley. Defensive coordinator Steve Wilks has promised to give Munnerlyn and Elder, the team's top nickel backs, a chance to compete on the outside as well.
  • With outside media getting their first glimpse of OTAs, all eyes were on receiver Kelvin Benjamin. He had a good day at the expense of Worley, who couldn't do much to stop multiple short passes across the middle intended for Benjamin. "He's worked himself into shape," said Rivera of his embattled wideout. "His route running has been very sharp. His ball catching has been very good."
  • Linebacker Shaq Thompson was all over the field. Example: Shortly after he blanketed speedster Damiere Byrd across the field on a drag route, Thompson was in coverage about 30 yards downfield against Byrd. After Thompson had failed to make an over-the-shoulder interception on that deep ball, he dropped to the ground to do a handful of pushups.

  • Undrafted rookie cornerback Cole Luke had a couple of pass breakups: The first down the seam on a ball intended for tight end Ed Dickson and the second near the sideline against undrafted rookie wideout Austin Duke.
  • Duke came back to beat cornerback Jeff Richards on a completion that was loudly celebrated by Cam Newton. Duke then made a diving catch downfield against 2016 fifth-round pick Zack Sanchez, but Duke probably would have been ruled out of bounds.
  • This may or may not be a guy we should pay more attention to. Blaine Clausell, who's spent time in Baltimore, New England and Washington since entering the league in 2015, took the bulk of snaps with the ones at left tackle. Most of the starters on the offensive line saw limited work in team drills, and Michael Oher remained absent, so it's too early to tell how intrigued the Panthers may be with Clausell.
  • The kicking competition seemed to have, ahem, kicked off. Incumbent Graham Gano and seventh-round pick Harrison Butker each booted a handful of tries during a special teams period. One of Gano's attempts banged off the goalpost, and it was clear Butker is still getting used to kicking a bigger football. But as Rivera reminded, this battle really won't heat up until training camp. 

View photos from the first week of Carolina's organized team activities.

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