Saturday minicamp notes: Looking at all the options

Brady Christensen

CHARLOTTE — Brady Christensen played left tackle in college, and played it at a high level.

But even though the Panthers have a long-standing lack of stability at that position, they're not ready to pigeonhole the third-round pick from BYU — or anyone — yet.

The Panthers have looked at Christensen on both sides of the line in rookie minicamp, and they also want to see him inside before the offseason's over.

"When we drafted him, we thought he was a guy who could play tackle, but could also be an elite guard," Panthers head coach Matt Rhule said. "Whether he can snap or not or has the ability to make those calls, that's what these camps are for. But we saw him as a guy that had four-position flexibility. So we move him around a little now just to get him some exposure."

Christensen has the kind of athleticism to stand out at multiple spots, so he's open to learning new things this weekend.

"Obviously, there's a ton of carryover position-to-position as an offensive lineman," Christensen said. "It's different at each position, but you've got to have great feet whether you're playing guard or tackle. You've got to be able to run off the ball; that's a big thing we're focusing on right now is just run off the ball and be really physical.

"You need that at all five spots. And I feel like I can do that, whether that's right tackle or left guard, I can do those things."

Rhule said that when considering the construction of an offensive line as a whole, the plan is to identify the starters at the position they play best, and then try to have as much versatility as possible from the backups.

"The best way to be up on game day is to be a versatile guy," Rhule said. "This is a time now, and in OTAs, you can move guys around experiment to find out not just their best position, but how they can get on the field quickest, and provide the most depth for us.

"Then we get to training camp, and we really have to zero in on some of those things. Especially in a 17-game season, we know there's going to be some attrition at times; there will be some shuffling of the deck."

MAMBA MENTALITY

Cornerback Jaycee Horn looked up to basketball legend Kobe Bryant as a kid, so his choice of jersey No. 8 seemed natural for him.

Of course, there's still something visually jarring about seeing a defensive back in a single-digit jersey, but his draft status also steered him in that direction when it was time to declare.

"Kobe always been my favorite athlete of all time, and I kind of had the mindset to wear 24," Horn said Saturday. "I always thought in high school that when I got to the NFL I planned to wear 24 to honor Kobe. With the single digits coming, he wore 8 too, and 24 was already taken. I was the eighth pick, he wore No. 8, so it all kind of lined up."

Technically, no player on the Panthers roster is currently listed with 24, though some veterans are still working through numerical choices, so it may already have a home.

What can't be disputed is Horn's reasoning for wanting to honor Bryant.

"Really just his mindset, how he attacked the game," Horn said. "The whole mamba mentality deal, how he just looked at everybody as food. Dominated the game for so long, game in and game out. Just the way he trained. His whole thought process really, made me gravitate toward him.

"I feel like that's the mindset you should have, especially in a game like football. Having the mindset to lock in, even off the field, to prepare the right way and dominate when it's time."

TAKING THEIR TIME

Wide receiver Terrace Marshall Jr. was limited in practice again Saturday, spending some time early doing drills before working with the team's conditioning staff.

He's still coming back from an arthroscopic knee procedure in January, and had a broken foot in 2019, so the Panthers are being careful with his workload in these early practices.

Rhule said Friday they want to make sure Marshall's ready to have a long career, so pacing him in May is part of the plan.

OBSERVATIONS

— It's far too soon to start hyping up receivers making big catches against air, but both wideout Shi Smith and tight end Tommy Tremble both had plays Saturday that you notice.

Tremble doesn't have big receiving stats from college (35 receptions in two years at Notre Dame), but Rhule said they gauge players by athletic traits rather than numbers.

It's early yet, but Tremble looks like a player who has some ability to stand out as more than a blocker.

— The Panthers will wrap up the weekend Sunday with a walk-through for the players, before shifting into the second phase of the offseason program.

That will be a transition week with some on-field work for players, before the four-week OTA season kicks in on May 24.

View photos from Saturday's rookie minicamp practice at the Atrium Health practice fields.

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