Training camp means pads will crack, with Panther jobs really on the line

TAMPA, FL - OCTOBER 29: Quarterback Cam Newton #1 of the Carolina Panthers huddles the offense during the first quarter of an NFL football game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on October 29, 2017 at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Florida. (Photo by Brian Blanco/Getty Images)
TAMPA, FL - OCTOBER 29: Quarterback Cam Newton #1 of the Carolina Panthers huddles the offense during the first quarter of an NFL football game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on October 29, 2017 at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Florida. (Photo by Brian Blanco/Getty Images) /

Carolina Panthers head coach Coach Rivera always says football gets very different when the pads start cracking in training camp…..

When Carolina Panthers training camp begins as Wofford (for at least one more year) tomorrow, its legitimate to utilize an analogy about the merits of specific horseflesh at Saratoga Race Track (where I’m vacationing today) relative to almost half the 93 men who will gather in Spartanburg, SC with hopes of gaining a professional football job.

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On parade, all the horsies look fine, but most will run out of the money. At training camp, teams might take six linebackers, but not eight, so 7th best is first loser. If you can stand up to a good bull rush but your first step against a speed rusher like Marquis Haynes is way late and he wraps up the QB, that’s a hmmm moment offensive linemen won’t want coaches to have. Looking studly at 6’6″, 315 won’t be sufficient now that the pads go on and jobs are definitely on the line.

Relative to my having decided against going to Saratoga and  betting on the ‘facts’ relative to a  conglomeration of 2-year olds, maidens, and claimers listed in racetrack Pink Sheets, the Panther coaches will have a similar task with yea or nay selection decisions, albeit with more training reps in brutal humidity for evaluation. With a quantity of luck, perhaps they’ll find a jewel like the now-departed Andrew Norwell, who came to camp an undrafted left guard in 2014, became an All-Pro last year and is now earning major (5 yr.-$66.5M) coin in Jacksonville.

On a race card like today, any three numbers from a hat and a strong surge off the final turn could become a nose win and whoopee! payoff, but for someone like Jeremiah Sirles, a relative bargain (a claimer if you will) with a $790k, one year contract, keeping Kawann Short from crushing runners is the best opportunity to show what you’ve got beginning *immediately*.

Keeping Kawann Short from crushing runners in training camp is the best opportunity for a lineman to show what you’ve got beginning *immediately*. Being known for having ‘a nasty streak’ like long time offensive tackle Jordan Gross actually counts. 

Damiere Byrd and Curtis Samuel are two ‘flyers’ (speed guys) that any handicapper would put a couple bucks on, both hampered by injuries last year. Byrd had some actual production (broke his maiden)- specifically that 103 yd. kickoff return against Tampa Bay- after coming back from a broken arm, then a second stint on IR ended his season. Samuels has elite 4.31 40 yard speed and was a primary receiver two years ago with Ohio State. In a crowded receiver room, consistent training camp production catch-wise will be at a premium.

Racetrack programs always list the entry’s pedigree, and for someone like LSU speedster/D-back Donte Jackson (4.32 40 yd. dash), who confidently noted for anyone who would listen that “(his) playing every game for three years against max-tough SEC competition trumps any notion (I’m) ‘small’ at 5-foot-11 and 178 pounds,” that pedigree often puts them a step ahead of ‘just’ other guys. Some names-situations on the Carolina Panthers list for training camp are a bit esoteric:

  • Efe Obada has no college experience and was assigned to the Panthers through the International Player Pathway Program after appearing in five games with the London Warriors (British American Football League)
  • J.J. Jansen has been the Panthers long snapper for 11 years (That’s esoteric!)
  • Quinterrus Eatmon (OG, So. Fla.) has been available for three years after being cut by Raiders in 2015
  • Mose Frazier was on Panthers practice squad in 2017, on/off several others as well
  • Bug Howard (6’4″, 220, UNC, WR) apparently impressed in OTAs and will have an uphill battle as a receiver; just please don’t say “That’s the biggest Bug I ever saw.”
  • Ashaad Mabry (DT, Texas-San Antonio) has bounced around practice squads since 2015
  • Cam Serigne (Wake Forest, TE) With 174 catches for 21 receiving touchdowns, Cam finished his career as ACC’s all-time leader in touchdown receptions by a tight end. He might be the person Ian Tomas (4th rd., Indiana) has to beat for a spot on squad.
  • Austin Duke (UNCC) and Elijah Hood (UNC, RB) are Charlotte natives. Duke had two stints on practice squad in 2017, Hood might find a fullback role in Norv Turner’s offense.

Beyond the plethora of organizational changes the Panthers went through this off-season, new owner David Tepper expressed confidence in the football side of the operation, meaning the won-lost record Coach Rivera has put together. To note in passing that Panthers were 11-5 in 2017 but haven’t had back-back winning seasons going into their 24th season is a matter of faith in that operation. GM Marty Hurney did about as much as conceivable in putting personnel matters in order, Norv Turner is here to be a quarterback whisperer for Cam Newton, so tomorrow the pads go on in training for a very serious 2018 team.

light. Related Story. Three Things Offense Must Make Happen

From this point forward, it won’t be about ‘potential’ or how pretty the players pictures look in a program, it will be who gets to the finish line of having their name on the roster for September 9th game vs. Cowboys.