Scorching heats and a record training camp attendance define this year’s training camp experience. Fans got to experience all of the sights and sounds of a typical Carolina Panthers practice. Cam Newton and Thomas Davis’s smack talk and Devin Funchess’s athletic touchdown catches were highlights of the training camp experience. It was also great to see Kelvin Benjamin back on the field getting involved in most of the action. Expect him to be one of Newton’s top targets again and get around 25-30 touches on the ball per game as we move into the regular season.
What we learned?
Panthers players (both rookies and veterans) can get a little heated on the field. Several players got into fights on the practice field due to the competitive nature of the game. Most of the fights occurred as the Panthers were practicing with pads. Having veterans with great leadership skills such as Thomas Davis, Ryan Kahlil, Luke Kuechly, and Charles Johnson really helps keep the younger players under control. Head coach Rivera installs a lot of trust in Thomas Davis. He let Davis help the competitive players cool down. Rivera was also able to talk to all the players and explain to them when it is appropriate to play aggressive and that a team has to work together not against each other. He also stressed how important it is to practice full uniform (with pads) without things getting out of hand.
On a positive note, the tensions between players shows that they are ready to win and really want a spot on the 53-man roster. Nobody was at a greater risk of injury than there already are playing football.
What needs improvement?
The weaknesses that I took notice of during training camp and the first two preseason games is that the chemistry on defense could be better. There are a ton of rookies taking the field (especially in the secondary) and communication plus recognizing play styles is not at the level it should be just yet. Veterans like Luke Kuechly, Thomas Davis, and Kawann Short are going to have to really coach for the first half of the season.
Bradberry seemed to look pretty solid in the most recent preseason game against the Titans. It did help that he didn’t have to face off against T. Sharpe. Sharpe was nearly perfect on all targets and picked on Worley all game long. Worley could not keep up with his man.
Josh Norman did a great job of doing whatever it took to get between his man and the ball. He was definitely not the fastest player on the field, but he was smart and aware of his surroundings.
Stars of training camp
I believe that Devin Funchess, James Bradberry, Vernon Butler, and Bene Benwikere have been the stars of training camp and the beginning preseason games. Funchess has improved a ton since last season. He barely got any reps last season and now he is mastering his strength and size to win one on one battles in the red zone. Expect him to be a big threat this season.
Bradberry has stepped up a lot. He has been dealing with the pressures of wearing Norman’s jersey and has come up big on some plays. Granted he does have some work to do, but he will become popular down the road.
Bene is coming off a major injury and started practicing a little later than other player. He really helps balance out the defense. Bene came up big with the interception against the Titans in the red zone.