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Carolina Panthers

Training Camp Observations: Day 8


SPARTANBURG — There's a duality to training camp when you're a head coach, especially one with as specific a background as Frank Reich has.

Since he's an offensive guy, it's frustrating when that side of the ball is as sloppy as it was on Saturday. Then again, he's the coach of the entire team, so he also has to be encouraged by the way the defense is playing as well.

"I mean, it's exciting," Reich said. "I mean, this is what it is. We tell the guys all the time we're not afraid to make mistakes. We're going to make mistakes; we've got to learn from them and get better. So this was a good day. We'll learn from the mistakes that we made and be excited about that.

"This is what happens in training camp; you've got to work out the kinks, get the timing right. Get all the mechanics right, all the operational stuff, and still play with great intensity. And, you know, today, the defense got the better of it."

There was some visible frustration from quarterback Bryce Young at times during the practice. He didn't turn the ball over, but he did throw more than the normal allotment away out of bounds, and there were other specifics that left him angry.

Near the end of practice, in a two-minute drill period, he moved the team in position to score but couldn't get a play off as the clock ran down. His hands went to the side of his head, obviously not happy with the result, shaking his head as he left the field while the defense celebrated.

Reich said they had called "one of our specialty plays," and it clearly didn't go the way they planned.

"I think he was expecting somebody to do something different than what they did," Reich said. "But then I ended up blowing the whistle just a little bit early because it didn't quite develop, and I just didn't want to see a big collision in the end zone."

Young said the goal is obviously to win every snap, every drill, and every game, but learning how to process the times he doesn't is an important component of this learning process.

"As a competitor, we all get like that; we all get frustrated," Young admitted. "But we have to do a better job of bringing stuff back and really stepping back and making sure that even if it's not our day, for one period or one play, that we're able to flip the script. And you know, we didn't do a good enough job of that today. But that's what training camp is for. So you know, it's just us competing and us getting after it. And, again, we're going to watch the tape and learn and grow from it.

"You've got to embrace it and funnel it. There's always going to be emotions when it comes to playing the sport, but then once it's done, you know, there's a time for that. There are only two options at a certain point. Are you going to let it dwell? Or are you going to let it affect you the next play? Or are you going to move on and get better? And the only thing you can do is focus on the next rep. So, you know, when that next rep comes, and you know, it's pretty quick, you know, you got to whatever it is you do with it, and then you learn from that play, taking what happened that snap, and then you've got to go to the next. So you're constantly turning the page and turning the page. And, you know, we're all still trying to improve in that, myself included."

That's not to say the entire practice was a poor one for Young and the offense, as he showcased his ability to make plays when things break down. During one period, he ducked out of some pressure, rolled to his right to buy time, and when it became a scramble drill and wide receiver Terrace Marshall Jr. broke free to the front of the end zone, he squeezed the ball into a tight space for a score.

Reich has been encouraged by the overall trend and said he likes the way Young has handled the ups and downs so far, including talking through plays with receivers to work things out when a play goes wrong.

"I don't think anything really gets to Bryce," Reich said. "I think he's really hard on himself more than anybody. A quarterback, you've just got to be unflappable. And I think we all know, Bryce has that gene, you know. Nothing really changes his pulse. But yet, he's the ultimate competitor, he's got that drive to be great. So that's what you want."

Shawn Jefferson

— As we wrote about yesterday, there are daily evidences that the Panthers have a bunch of former players on the coaching staff. Saturday that included wide receivers coach Shawn Jefferson putting on pads and a helmet to go through individual drills with his guys. He played 13 years in the league (part of the 75 years of playing experience on the staff) and was channeling his younger self.

"I love that. I mean, I love that man right there," Reich said of the 54-year-old Jefferson. "I mean, he's just one of one. And, you know, it means so much to him. And he takes it personally. And so he loves his guys, and he loves his job we all do. But he's got a unique delivery and a unique way of coaching, and, you know, I wouldn't trade him for anybody in the world."

Chandler Zavala

— Rookie guard Chandler Zavala was activated from the physically unable to perform list, and was back in pads. He only did individual drills, as he works back after missing the first week-plus with a hamstring issue.

Running back Miles Sanders was held out of team drills late. Reich said he "tweaked something" and didn't have any other details, but said pulling him from practice was more of a precaution.

New defensive lineman Nick Thurman was carted off the field late in practice after being treated for heat-related issues.

Cornerback Rejzohn Wright was back in practice after missing a week with an unspecified injury, adding some depth back to the cornerback position.

That left three players on the sideline, including two who are still on the active/PUP list: Austin Corbett and Jalen Redmond. Reich said Corbett was "ahead of schedule" in his rehab from a torn ACL, but they're still proceeding with caution, and he isn't expected to be ready by the regular season opener.

Outside linebacker Marquis Haynes Sr. remained on the sideline with a back issue. Reich acknowledged that the team is monitoring the free agent market at that position. They were doing that anyway, but Haynes' absence has made the need more apparent.

Starting safety Vonn Bell got a veteran day off, and was in his bucket hat, continuing to chirp through practice as he has. Eric Rowe worked with the starters in his absence.

— Today is probably not the day you want to be in offensive line coach James Campen's meeting room.

Among the problems the offense had on Saturday were far too many false start penalties.

They had three in rapid succession in one team period, with Cade Mays, Ikem Ekwonu, and Michael Jordan drawing flags. Ekwonu got another one later in practice during a two-minute period, which had Donte Jackson and some defensive players heckling him.

"It's just a discipline and focus thing," Reich said. "And, you know, honestly, we've been pretty good all camp. You know, it's a little bit hotter today, a little bit more humid, you know, in pads, we're in day whatever (eight, but who's counting). So that's great; that's a great opportunity to work through that. Because we all know, that's what it's going to be like on game day, you're going to get tired, and we got to be able to concentrate and work through that."

— It's becoming increasingly clear during camp that the passing game is going to be diverse. While DJ Chark Jr. has made daily highlights while at Wofford, they have a number of other targets who have made plays. Saturday, Young found Adam Thielen deep down the sideline for a score, and several other wideouts were making plays.

Damiere Byrd might have had the catch of the day, grabbing a touchdown from Andy Dalton in the corner of the end zone.

— Josh Thomas had an interception Saturday off Dalton, as part of a solid day by the defense. They're clearly creating a lot of pressure and giving Young and the offense a lot of different looks.

The Panthers have 75 years of NFL playing experience on the coaching staff, in addition to the 200-plus years of coaching experience among them.

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