Let’s Go Camping!


There are a number of odds and ends to report from the Carolina Panthers’ Monday summer school session.  It’s a good news/bad news situation so brace yoruselves.

First, the good news.

Jeff Otah was on the field Monday for the first time practicing with his teammates.

There’s a bunch more after the jump!

Otah, a first-round pick in April’s NFL draft, had been held out of the team’s minicamp in May and last week’s three days of off-season training activities (OTAs) because of a high-ankle sprain.

Otah, a 6-foot-6, 330-pounder, hurt the ankle last August and played with the injury the entire season at the University of Pittsburgh.

That’s not just good news, that’s great news!  Now that Otah is on the field, the team can at least begin to determine if he’s cut out to play the right tackle spot.  He got some work with the first team Monday at right tackle.  After spending next year’s first-round draft pick on him, let’s hope he is cut out for it.

More good news was received Monday from John Fox who says that Dwayne Jarrett has looked good in this mini camp/summer school.

“They’ve all been good,” Fox said when asked specifically for impressions of Hackett. “I think really with the addition of Moose (Muhsin Muhammad), I think Dwayne Jarrett’s been impressive the first week, along with D.J.

“I see a pretty able corps right now. Now it’s a matter of staying healthy and improving.”

“Same as any rookie, coming in here is digesting a lot of stuff,” Fox said. “Look around the league, a lot of rookie receivers don’t produce all that much that early. You see most of your improvement year one to year two. So we’re hoping that takes place, but there will be some strong competition. …

“He’s been through it, he’s a year more mature, grown up some. I think age isn’t always an indicator of maturity, but it can be a factor.”

That’s great to hear but is Jarrett going to be able to get on the field with Muhsin Muhammad and D.J. Hackett in town?  Jarrett isn’t cut out for special teams, he’s going to be at least fourth on the depth chart and his offseason problems had to compound last year’s issues in learning the playbook.  He might look good now, but don’t count out the option of having him listed as inactive for several games this fall.

Staying with the receivers, Muhsin Muhammad looks like his old self.

Judging by the way Muhammad looks so far in camp, there’s been no visible signs of any dropoff in his play since 2004 when he hauled in 93 passes for 1,405 yards and a franchise-record 16 touchdowns while Steve Smith spent the season on injured reserve.

Although the players are still in shorts, Muhammad looks explosive, making several nice catches while running precision routes. His impact is bound to become even more noticeable once late July arrives and the players put on pads and Muhammad starts to take on downfield blockers, something he does better than any receiver whose ever played for the Panthers.

Coach Fox says that the number two receiver spot is one that, “We never really filled after he [Muhammad] left.”  One of the worst kept secrets in Charlotte is that Moose keeps himself in extremely good shape year-round.  Steve Smith has commented on how good he looks and that it’s almost as if he never left the team.  Moose sounds like a guy who could play quite a bit longer.

“My wife told me to keep rolling until the wheels fall off,” Muhammad said with a laugh. “And my wheels are real tight right now, so I’m still playing.”

Muhammad said his style of play lends itself to a long career.

“I never was a guy with some blazing speed. I never had the speed like Randy Moss or Smitty,” Muhammad said. “My game is all about technique and I think that is what keeps you in the league longer when you do get up there in age. If you are a guy who is fundamentally sound, you have great technique, run great routes and you know how to go get the ball, well, that is what this game is all about – being in the right places at the right times and making the plays.”

Is it any wonder that Moose is such a beloved player here?

One more player at wide receiver who is impressing people is Jason Carter.

“One guy that that has really been turning my head is Jason Carter,” said veteran wide receiver Muhsin Muhammad. “He comes out here and makes plays every day. He’s a guy that really hasn’t made a big splash in the NFL yet, but I think he’s a guy that can play.”

The problem for Carter is the Panthers are loaded with talent this year at receiver.

Coach John Fox normally keep either four or five receivers on his roster, depending on the year, and almost never activates more than four on game day.

Sounds as if somebody is the odd man out.  Place your bets.  Will the unlucky receiver to go home be Jarrett (not likely as a former second-rounder), Ryne Robinson (good on special teams), Carter (inexperienced and could be a potential practice squad player), or Travis Taylor (a long shot at best to make the team)?  If they cut two guys, I’d have to think the best bets are probably Taylor and either Carter or Robinson and I lean toward Robinson since Jonathan Stewart will probably be taking over in the return game.

Now, for some bad news.

And speaking of wide receivers, D.J. Hackett was held out of the Monday session.

WR D.J. Hackett experienced some swelling in his knee after last week’s practices, and was held out Monday as they tried to calm it down. One of the questions about Hackett has always been his durability, but there’s no indication now as to whether this is anything serious.

When Hackett got to Carolina, his agent made a point of telling the media that the Seahawks had held him out of games and even put him on the injured reserve when he was healthy enough to play.  He felt that the perception that Hackett is injury prone is just that – a perception only.  Unfortunately, this doesn’t look too good now.

We’ll all be hoping that this is just a minor thing and that he’s back on the field snagging passes from Jake soon.

We’ll be doing our best to keep you updated on all the summer school activites.  If anybody gets asked to the prom, we’ll let you know.