CHARLOTTE -- Perry Fewell has been working with NFL defensive backs for years. He knows a good secondary when he sees one.
How good can the Panthers' pass defense be this season? Too early to tell. But Carolina's secondary coach shared his initial impressions of four key contributors: starting cornerbacks James Bradberry and Donte Jackson, starting safety Eric Reid and safety/nickel Rashaan Gaulden, who is looking to lock down the starting job.
On Reid: "Firstly, I just love him. So smart, great in the classroom. So focused. A good leader. He has all the intangibles you want in a guy to build your secondary around. He can cover, he's physical, he can play the middle of the field. He can do it all."
On Gaulden: "Very talented player. Doesn't have a lot of experience, so what we're trying to do is give him the experience through these OTAs playing not only nickel but safety. But I like his progress so far. When the pads come on, that's a different story. We'll see what kind of level he can take it to. He's very unique with his ability yo play nickel and safety. That's the way you would like to build 'em. The nickel is a hybrid safety/corner position that can cover and play the run. That's a luxury to have."
On Bradberry: "I'll say this about James – he's improved his footwork and his ball skills. There are some technique things that we are trying to work with him on. If he continues to work at that, it's up to James how successful he can be. He's talented enough to be one of the top 10 corners in this league."
On Jackson: "Ultimately competitive. We just need to improve his discipline, and it all starts with stance and focus. I spoke with him today – he's a young man that likes for people to challenge him. So when he's not getting the ball thrown at him all the time, he's got to make sure that he keeps his focus. If he can do that and play through the down, play the next series, well, we know he's a really talented young man."