Jordan Gross, the Carolina Panthers starting right tackle, made a bold statement on Monday. Boy, did he!
Left tackle Jordan Gross, who faces Peppers every day in practice, said (Julius) Peppers is “bigger, stronger and faster” than he’s ever seen him and fully expects him to rebound from a disappointing season in 2007.
“I’ll say this with 100 percent confidence, I think he’s going to have his best year ever,” said Gross, who has been teammates with Peppers since 2003. “He’s better than I’ve ever seen him. Barring anything unknown, there’s no reason he won’t go out and set records, I think. He looks really, really good.”
After averaging more than 10 sacks per season his first five years in the league, Peppers finished with a disappointing 2.5 sacks in 2007.
Gross said Peppers seems ready to go.
“He’s as strong and fast and big as I’ve ever seen him,” Gross said. “It’s great for me switching back to left again to go against him, because there really isn’t going to be anybody better than him this year. If he keeps on the same pace he’s on now, he’s just going to kill people.”
Ironic, isn’t it? Gross had been playing right tackle while Peppers was playing left defensive end. Gross changes to the left while Peppers moves right. Viola! They’re facing each other in practice – again!
If anybody would know that J-Pepp is looking sharp, it would be Gross…Jordan Gross.
Gross also says that facing the new monstrous Julius in training camp and everyday in practice will only make him better.
“I know he really enjoys being on the defensive right side. I think it’s a bit of a new challenge for him. He’s been training all off-season,” Gross said. “I’ve talked to him as much as he’ll talk and he said he just feels stronger, faster and bigger than ever. It’s definitely true just in these few days I’ve been going against him, he made me earn everything I’m getting.”
Gross said he has no idea why Peppers’ production fell off last season.
“I know he got sick,” Gross said. “He’s the only one he can tell you what he was going through last year. In camp and everything I thought he was looking good… not as good as he is this year, by far. I still had my battles with him last year.”
We’ve all been hoping to hear this, heven’t we? Don’t we all want our old Julius back? But it would be nice to have a Julius that talked, wouldn’t it?
The fine reporter gentleman at the Gaston Gazette also provided us with these nuggets from Monday’s sessions:
NOTABLE: The Panthers had big expectations last season for defensive end Stanley McClover, but he injured his groin in training camp and missed the first three games. McClover never really recovered.
Now he’s healthy and trying to put last season behind him.
“I’m not the type of guy that makes excuses,” McClover said. “It was just something I tried to work through. It slowed me down but it comes with the territory. You’ve got to play through that and make plays. This year I’m just trying to stay healthy from the beginning to the end. I should have played better. I expect more out of myself and I definitely expect more out of myself this year.”
McClover, who is working with the second team defense, is having a solid camp so far.
DEPTH CHART WATCH: Keydrick Vincent worked Monday morning with the first team at right guard ahead of Toniu Fonoti. The Panthers are still trying to decide who is the better option. Look for this battle to play out in training camp. I can foresee a plan where Fonoti starts one preseason game, Vincent the next and so on.
“It’s still early,” said coach John Fox. “We haven’t picked our starting lineup for the season at this point. That’s why we’re here.”
If nothing else, I called this one – like about a million other people. Fonoti started early but you knew that other guys would get their shot at the job.
POSITION BATTLES: One of the under-the-radar battles at camp is at the No. 4 cornerback spot. The Panthers are set with Ken Lucas, Chris Gamble and Richard Marshall as their top three corners. Currently, free agent pickup Ricardo Colclough is getting most of the reps with the second team, but veterans Dante Wesley and Curtis Deloatch could figure into the mix.
Sorry, Ricardo, but I would have to think that if that fourth spot is taken away from Wesley after the struggles that Colclough has had in his career, it would be a major upset.
ON THE RISE: While talking about the team’s need to create a pass rush, Fox brought up Hilee Taylor, the team’s seventh-round draft pick.
“He’s got speed off the edge, and sometimes a guy can be a specialist,” Fox said. “Maybe he’s a third-down pass rusher. That’s something we lacked; we didn’t get a lot of sacks last year; we didn’t create a lot of pressure. That’s something we’re working very hard on this training camp.”
Could it be? Could there be another UNC guy in the mix when the 53-man roster is announced? Somewhere Dean Smith is smiling. Alright, he only smiles about basketball, I know!
YOU MIGHT HAVE MISSED: Adam Seward drew Fox’s wrath on Monday when he tackled running back DeAngelo Williams behind the line. Fox screamed at him, telling him not to tackle. “We call it thud tempo. We want guys wrapped up and hit but not taken to the ground and a couple of times we got a little bit too rambunctious,” Fox said. “We just try to keep guys off the ground as we get ready for live contact and still get our defense ready to tackle and yet not beat up our offense.”
Wouldn’t you like to have been close enough to hear that exchange?
Fox: “Adam, you moron!! How much money does he make?”
Seward: “Gee, I don’t know, coach. Millions?”
Fox: “Yes!! Millions!! How much do you make?”
Seward: “About $1000 plus room and board, I guess.”
Fox: “Adam, you big dummy, don’t hit the million dollar man and get him hurt or I’ll take it out of your [expletive deleted]!!” (This is a family site after all!)
THEY SAID IT: “Nine years coming down to Spartanburg, I still get cringes when I cross the South Carolina line, my stomach feels kinda queasy, but you know, I’m here and I’m going to get through it.”
–FB Brad Hoover on coming to camp.
Fans, this is shaping up to be a good year – as long as HOOOOOVER can keep his colon in shape. Don’t drink the water, Brad!