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Practice Observations: Right guard competition has another week

Chandler Zavala

CHARLOTTE — It's one thing to have a competitive situation, but Frank Reich would prefer to settle it sooner rather than later.

The Panthers head coach said Monday he'd like to know who his starting right guard going into the regular season would be at some point next week, so the first five can work together in the preseason finale against Detroit.

"You need that chemistry; you need to get going," Reich said. "But at the same time, we need to figure out who those five guys are going to be. It's a competitive battle inside. So we'll just continue to work towards that final five. And I think here in the next week, we should come to, hopefully, a conclusion."

They rotated three guys through that spot Saturday night with quarterback Bryce Young and the first offense, getting a look at — in chronological order — Cade Mays, Justin McCray, and Michael Jordan.

They've also used undrafted rookie Nash Jensen with the ones at points in training camp, though he didn't play Saturday night because of a back issue. Likewise, fourth-round rookie Chandler Zavala, who started camp on the physically unable to perform list with a hamstring strain, was cleared and then worked on the side last week as he continues to get comfortable.

Reich said those two would absolutely be part of the decision-making process and that their health complicated it.

"We've been trying to hold off making a decision until those guys get back, to be quite honest," Reich said. "Because we feel like those guys are in the mix and had shown a lot of positive things, but their injuries have just kind of lingered on a little bit longer than we anticipated or wanted.

"So we'll see how that plays out this week."

The Panthers are looking for a short-term replacement at the position since Austin Corbett is coming off a torn ACL in the regular season finale against the Saints. His rehab has gone well, and Reich referred to him as "ahead of schedule," but he's still expected to miss some amount of regular season time.

The rest of the line is largely settled, though in need of some improvement after allowing five sacks against the Jets.

— Reich used the word "generic" to describe their offensive play-calling Saturday and was asked on Monday how he drew the line between not showing future opponents their plans and developing any amount of success and continuity with the starting offense doing the things they hoped to do later.

Young's longest completion was for 8 yards, and the Panthers didn't show some of the looks they've used during training camp for the element of surprise heading into opening the regular season against a couple of divisional rivals.

"Very fair question there. I mean, I'm gonna err on the side of being a little bit more vanilla," Reich said. "But you know, at the same time, you want to have a little bit of success. I mean, you do want to have a little bit of success. So really, obviously didn't anticipate Saturday going that way.

"We came out on Wednesday, attacking, being relentless, and really just had great energy on Wednesday in the joint practice, and I was really envisioning seeing that carry over to Saturday, and it didn't.

"So we'll learn from that, right? We'll learn from that; we've got to continue to be relentless, physical, attacking, and put our guys in a good position. So we'll bounce that off a little bit, but I'm still going to err on the side of not showing too much."

— The Panthers had a longer injury list Monday, and it got longer as practice went on.

In addition to some of the players who haven't participated lately, such as outside linebacker Marquis Haynes Sr., they had some new entries as well.

Defensive end Henry Anderson (foot) and wide receiver Derek Wright (knee) weren't on the practice field, and when asked about a timetable, Reich said, "it might be a minute." Likewise, backup tackle Cameron Erving (ankle) sounds like he could miss some time, though Reich said he wanted to wait before he declared one way or another to see if the situation settled down before they got an MRI on it.

Running back Miles Sanders was on the field but not practicing Monday, as were cornerbacks Greg Mabin and Mac McCain III.

Wide receiver Terrace Marshall Jr. was taken inside on a cart early in practice. Reich said he "tweaked a little something in his back," but he didn't have any further update.

— There has been plenty of criticism of the offensive line after the first preseason game, but veteran tackle Taylor Moton said it was nothing like what was coming from inside the building.

And that's not just the come-to-Jesus meeting they had with line coach James Campen after an outing that was not up to their own standards.

"I'm my own biggest critic; I have been for seven years," Moton said. "Maybe that's why I'm so bald so young. I stress myself out to the max to make sure I'm the best I possibly can be.

"I have so much love for everyone in the room and want what's best for them, so it's like, what can I do to help those guys get better? What can I do to make sure I'm the best version of myself?"

Moton is not what you'd call a hirsute man, and he showed up bald at the scouting combine, so it's reasonable to assume the clean look has always been a stylistic choice on his part.

"Nah," Moton said with a laugh. "If you saw me with hair, you'd see why it was a choice."

— Everyone was naturally happy to be back home and practicing at Bank of America Stadium after two-plus weeks in Spartanburg. The only problem was Monday was their hottest practice of the summer so far.

When practice began at 1 p.m., it was 90 degrees, and the dew point was a sweltering 73, for a heat index over 100. It got hotter as the day went on, with only a bit of a breeze.

— While Young was limited in the game by the Jets' pressure, in the friendly confines of practice, there were definitely some more shots downfield.

He had a nice completion to Jonathan Mingo along the sidelines (Mingo did a good job of keeping his feet in), along with a chunk play down the middle to tight end Ian Thomas.

Thomas will likely always be primarily a blocker, but Reich has been bullish on the tight end room beyond Hayden Hurst, and Thomas has shown in practice he can make a play or two.

— For all the talk about the hits Young took on Saturday night, Reich said what impressed him was not just the way he bounced up but that he maintained his mechanical integrity after those shots.

"You know, there was no flinch," Reich said. "And he didn't get the jitters at all. No evidence of anything of being shaken, not in the huddle, not on the sideline. In fact, it was the exact opposite."

View photos from practice as the Panthers prepare for their second preseason game at the New York Giants this Friday.

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