SPARTANBURG, S.C. – Panthers head coach Ron Rivera had hoped to get a little more out of his team in Saturday's preseason opener.
Monday, the team responded to Rivera in its first practice since the game, starting with the defense.
"I was very pleased. A lot of times you look for something to lean on, and today we had an opportunity to lean on the defense," Rivera said. "The defense came out and had a really good practice, and once the offense saw the tone the defense had set up, they picked it up and brought their tempo up."
The defense focused on shedding blockers and making tackles, while the offense worked on pass protection.
Soon, the focus will shift to the next opponent. After breaking camp Wednesday, the Panthers will be right back at it Friday when the Miami Dolphins visit Bank of America Stadium.
While linebacker Jon Beason remained on the sideline with a hamstring injury suffered last Thursday, linebacker Thomas Davis got his most significant work of training camp to date, taking part in seven-on-seven drills.
"It was good to see Thomas back on the football field," Rivera said. "We're going to gradually work him into it. We've still got three-and-a-half, four weeks of preseason left."
Rivera confirmed that two players – cornerback Nate Ness and tight end Nelson Rosario – suffered concussions against the Texans.
Defensive tackle Andre Neblett was absent from practice. He didn't feel well Monday morning and was sent back to Charlotte for further evaluation.
Cornerback Brandon Hogan, who hasn't practiced since the early days of training camp, is making progress according to Rivera.
"(Brandon) had a good day today," Rivera said. "He was in the weight room and did some real heavy lifting on the leg. He had a problem with his quad on the knee that was repaired. We've got to get that stronger so he can get back on the field."
Defensive end Eric Norwood and safety Jonathan Nelson also did not practice.
--The offense opened up team drills with two big runs up the middle. Running back DeAngelo Williams shot through a big hole and sprinted into the secondary. Quarterback Cam Newton carried the ball himself for another first down on the next play.
--Running back Tauren Poole attacked the edge of the defense and drew some applause from Rivera following a big gain down the left sideline.
--Safety Sherrod Martin filled a hole with authority later in the session, stopping Jonathan Stewart at the line of scrimmage and exciting the defense.
--The defense snuffed out the trick plays run by the offense during team drills. Wide receiver Louis Murphy was swallowed up by a host of defenders for a substantial loss on a reverse, and shortly thereafter, Newton was forced to take a sack when a flea-flicker took too long to develop.
--The first-team offensive line picked up an all-out blitz, allowing Newton to fire a quick slant over the middle to Steve Smith, who proceeded to run for a long ways after the catch.
--Cornerback Captain Munnerlyn earned a difficult pass break-up when he leaped to knock the ball away from Smith on a high pass between the hashes.
--Kickers Olindo Mare and Justin Medlock worked on long-range field goals, attempting four each from 50-plus yards. They both went 2-for-4.
SIGHTS AND SOUNDS
--After giving up eight sacks against Houston (and recording just three themselves) the Panthers spent an early portion of practice drilling pass-protection and pass-rush. Running backs and tight ends were tasked with blocking blitzing linebackers and defensive backs. The drill fired up both the offensive and defensive coaches, as intensity rose with each rep.
--Rather than breaking up into position groups to start practice, the defense worked on an 11-man pursue the ball drill. A coach would throw to a wideout on the perimeter and the entire defense would flow toward the ball-carrier as he ran down the sideline.
NEXT UP: The Panthers will practice from 10:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. tomorrow, which is T-shirt Tuesday. Players will toss t-shirts into the crowd after practice.
Max Henson and Bryan Strickland contributed to this report.