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Training Camp Observations: Day 11


SPARTANBURG — There were times in Wednesday's joint practice with the Jets when Bryce Young had to hurry more than he had been, and the offense in general was a little shaky in spots.

It wasn't a calamity or anything, but things were clearly not as smooth as they might have hoped.

But that's perhaps more of an indication of what the Jets do so differently, more so than a sign of a particular struggle.

The Jets were out there without top cornerback Sauce Gardner and defensive end Carl Lawson, but most of the pieces remained from a top-five defense a year ago. And because they play differently than the Panthers are used to practicing against, it was a pretty significant adjustment.

"That's a big deal," Reich said. "Because you know, our defensive front plays much differently than the Jets. The Jets are a one-gap attack front, we're a two-gap, gap-and-a-half defense team. So it's really good work for us to feel that, to get stressed on that level, and to feel the difference of schemes because we'll play both during the year."

Center Bradley Bozeman said that offensive line coach James Campen began mixing in some Jets principles into their individual drills lately, but for the most part, they're operating against a different look without the benefit of game-planning against it.

"It definitely challenges you; you've got to kind of figure it out," Bozeman said. "You got to feel it out to start with, but you know, I feel like coach Campen did a good job of getting us ready for that and watching them on film. And we did some of that in indy.

"And you know, I think we did a great job handling it, you know, they started moving and slanting a lot. So it was good to get that kind of work, because then we're going to face defenses that do that."

The Panthers also mixed things up on the offensive line. They used veteran Justin McCray regularly with the first line at right guard, where Cade Mays has spent most of camp. Mays had a rough patch earlier in camp, with multiple false starts in Saturday's practice, and he worked with the twos at center (where McCray has normally been).

And things were never as sketchy as they were last Saturday when the offense struggled against their own teammates. But it was clearly an adjustment for them.

Young had one pass picked off on a ball that tipped off the hands of DJ Chark Jr.. Reich said he wanted to see it again on film since someone suggested a defender might have gotten there early, but was generally OK with the way the offense played.

"I thought our offense, overall, it was a good day," Reich said. "You know, the Jets made their share plays defensively; they had good rush at times. So we have to get that cleaned up. I thought Bryce made good decisions. I thought, you know, as a receiving group, I thought our spacing and distribution was good. We'll check it out on tape, we'll clean up the things that we need to, but I thought Bryce made good decisions and had good accuracy."

There were a number of nice connections for the first offense, with Young driving a few deep balls down the middle to Shi Smith, Chark, and Jonathan Mingo. He also has a knack for sensing pressure, and knowing how to move around it, get out of the pocket, and get the ball out quickly if need be.

The run game was solid, for the most part. Chuba Hubbard fumbled when he from behind, but he also had a number of nice inside runs, as he continues to show signs of being the closest thing they have to being a big back.

Kamu Grugier-Hill

— Linebacker Kamu Grugier-Hill, who has had an exceptional camp, closed out practice with another interception.

He picked off Zach Wilson on the final play of the second-string two-minute drill work.

"Kamu has been making plays all camp, right?" Reich said. "I mean, you guys have seen it. And so he makes another big play today."

— Yes, things were different with the Jets in town.

Not only did they bring a large media contingent of their own (there was a second media tent for post-practice interviews), but the crew from NFL Films documenting things for Hard Knocks added to the crowd.

They had lifts and all kinds of equipment at least another dozen bodies roaming the sidelines, with cameras and boom mikes and runners. It was a lot. When the teams changed fields between segments, the area between the two main practice fields was a traffic snarl to rival anything that happens on 277 (other than at the Third Street-Fourth Street merge or maybe Exit 3A).

Hopefully, it makes for good content.

— Linebacker Frankie Luvu was out for a second straight day with what Reich referred to as "a little nick."

Wide receiver Laviska Shenault Jr. was on the bike next to him, and Reich said it was a similar thing.

The Panthers try to err on the side of caution with injured players and keep small issues from becoming larger ones. Luvu was hoping to practice against his former team, but has to be managed at times because he's always 100 mph and can put himself in harm's way.

— Reich said earlier this week he wanted to put an emphasis on "non-fighting" in the joint practice, and that was clearly an emphasis.

Every time tempers would flare — a non-zero amount of times — coaches would jump in to settle things down or get between players.

"We're not going to clear the benches today," a Jets coach yelled after Panthers tight end Hayden Hurst got into it a bit with an opponent. Tight end Stephen Sullivan also was involved in a couple of almost-skirmishes, before things settled down.

That doesn't mean there wasn't plenty of jawing, as special teamer Sam Franklin Jr. kept the energy up in his own unique way through live punt drills.

— The Panthers quarterbacks were back in red jerseys Wednesday, just to be on the safe side.

They had started wearing black ones to practice during OTAs at the suggestion of veteran backup Andy Dalton but switched back to red so there wouldn't be any confusion from the Jets.

With the Panthers practicing in white-on-white, that left the Jets quarterbacks looking like Christmas trees with their green pants and red jerseys. It's not a good look in August. Or probably any non-Christmas time.

— Jaycee Horn had a pick on a tipped pass from Zach Wilson, and Aaron Rodgers wagged his finger at him on the way by.

— Speaking of Rodgers, he had nothing but praise for Panthers offensive line coach James Campen, who was with him for many years in Green Bay.

"I love Campy. That's family to me. He's a special, special human," Rodgers said. "James and I became fast friends my rookie year in 2005. I've been in touch; we spent time together in the offseason. He's a great human being, and a phenomenal coach, and any player is lucky to be tutored by him.

"It's not just a player-coach relationship. He's going to make sure you know he cares about you and what you're interested in, your family, and keep in touch with you. It's a tribute to him, the people who do keep in touch with him through text threads and messages and FaceTimes. He's a great man."

James Campen, Aaron Rodgers

— There was a full house Wednesday, and not just of the media. There were 10,217 tickets distributed for practice.

Also, the ranks of Panthers alumni on hand continue to grow.

Quarterback Jake Delhomme was there, exchanging notes with former linebacker and Panthers Radio Network collaborator Luke Kuechly.

Running back Stephen Davis was here as well, along with Charles Johnson, Roman Harper, Robert McClain, Kyle Love, and Avius Capers. Former general manager Bill Polian was on the sidelines as well.

— New kicker Matthew Wright was 1-of-2 on field goals on the day. He hit his first one to end Young's two-minute drive at the end of practice but was wide right on his second attempt at the end of the second offense's turn.

Wright signed Tuesday to provide cover for Eddy Piñeiro, who is managing a groin injury. It isn't believed to be serious, so they added another camp leg as a precaution. Piñeiro was on the practice field and in uniform and moving around normally, but he could miss some preseason game time.

— New outside linebacker Justin Houston was already in full uniform Wednesday after arriving Tuesday morning and taking a physical.

He's still easing his way in and didn't take all the team reps, but he was out there.

The 34-year-old pass-rusher is a big add for the Panthers as both a player (111.5 career sacks) and as a mentor.

— Panthers personnel consultant Terry Bradway — who is in town with the rest of the scouting department — was general manager of the Jets from 2001-06. He caught up with a number of old friends prior to practice, including owner Woody Johnson.

Bradway has been consulting with the Panthers since 2021, as GM Scott Fitterer brought him in for some veteran perspective.

— There's one more practice tomorrow with the Jets, which will go a little earlier (a 9:30 a.m. start) and be a little shorter. Then they'll break camp for the year and head back to Charlotte to get ready for Saturday afternoon's preseason opener.

Thank you to all those who participated in our Kids Helmet Walk at Back Together Saturday!

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