4 key observations from recent Carolina Panthers practices

(Photo by Grant Halverson/Getty Images) Alex Armah and Mike Davis
(Photo by Grant Halverson/Getty Images) Alex Armah and Mike Davis /
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Carolina Panthers
(Photo by Jacob Kupferman/Getty Images) Troy Pride Jr. /

Four rookie starters on defense?

It is clear the Carolina Panthers have big plans for their historic all-defense NFL Draft in 2020. This is an area of the field that was relatively devoid of any real depth before their arrival. And many of them have been making their presence felt at training camp so far.

According to David Newton of ESPN, Carolina’s coaching staff allocated black shirts to no fewer than four rookies during their fan fest team drills on Thursday night. Derrick Brown, Yetur Gross-Matos, Jeremy Chinn, and Troy Pride Jr. all filled starting roles. But only time will tell as to whether this will continue into their Week 1 clash against the Las Vegas Raiders.

Putting Gross-Matos ahead of free-agent signing Stephen Weatherly is arguably the most intriguing element to this. The former Minnesota Viking has worked exceptionally hard to earn a starting role. But if the No. 38 overall pick continues to outshine him at camp, then the defensive end might be forced to settle for a rotational role once again.

There was little doubt that Chinn and Brown were going to start. And Pride Jr.’s inclusion in the lineup could be down to the fact Eli Apple was forced to sit out through injury. Either way, these are encouraging signs for the rookie players as they gear up for their first NFL season. And the Panthers will be counting on them to deliver the goods when it matters most.