CHARLOTTE – Results in the weight room don't necessarily equal results on the field, but it's certainly a strong place to start.
When asked which players particularly stood out to him during the 2015 season, strength and conditioning coach Joe Kenn, recently named NFL Strength Coach of the Year, offered three names.
The first was linebacker Shaq Thompson, Carolina's first-round pick in the 2015 draft.
"Shaq Thompson really excelled in the weight room," Kenn said. "Very, very proud. Shaq has a lot of the traits you want. An exceptional worker."
Thompson was playing catch-up after missing a large part of the offseason program to finish his coursework at the University of Washington. But when he returned, he quickly made his mark.
"Shaq had to finish school, so we didn't have him, and I always look for that leader of the rookie group during that time," Kenn said. "At that point, I didn't see one. Then Shaq came back, and I told Mr. Gettleman, 'I found the leader of the group.'"
Thompson finished his rookie season with 61 tackles, one sack and four passes defensed.
Kenn then commended the work of two starting offensive linemen. He said second-year guard Andrew Norwell had a "superior year" in the weight room.
And he was effusive in his praise for left tackle Michael Oher, who signed with the team as a free agent in 2015.
"Michael Oher killed it. He just totally dominated the in-season program," Kenn said. "And remember, he played 1,300 snaps. Did everything I asked and continued to come in here and do extra. He had a lot to prove. He's highly motivated, and I don't think that's changing."