After five practices, three in pads, we’re starting to see some names more than others. As a fan on the outside looking in, here’s some thoughts on what I have gathered by following training camp coverage. Note: I have not attended any practices. The following information is based on media coverage and fan reports.
Shaq Thompson- Panthers media has been describing him as a turnover machine. It seems every practice he has made some sort of spectacular interception.
Kelvin Benjamin- The big guy is back and full effect. Without even trying hard, KB seems unstoppable. He has put on 10 pounds of muscle and just looks manimalish.
Cameron Artis-Payne- He’s been blocking and catching balls out of the backfield. BBR reported him stoning a pass rusher and turning a screen pass upfield for forty yards in the same practice. He’s reportedly trimmed up some from last year and it’s showing in his open-field burst.
The Three Amigos (James Bradberry, Darryl Worley, and Zack Sanchez)- I’ve heard Sanchez and Worley’s name most, but all three finished the week with a strong practice. One related story that has emerged is related to three rookie cornerbacks closely developing friendship. Dubbed the “Three Amigos” by teammates, these rookies expect to develop into a strong defensive unit.
Damiere Byrd- Ran with the first team in the initial days of practice. BBR’s Bill Voth remarked he has a better shot at making the team than most believe. Missed a deep pass on Sunday, which may be tempering some early excitement.
Devin Funchess- He’s got the physique and it’s helping. He’s attacking passes and coming down with the ball in contested situations.
Kurt Coleman- Still seems always around the ball.
Ted Ginn- Last year, we heard about how much his route running had improved. I haven’t heard his name but once so far, and it was about a bobbled deep pass...go figure.
Vernon Butler- Lots of good reports emerged during Rookie Minicamp, but there hasn’t been much good news since. Butler suffered cramps early in the week and struggled against backup offensive lineman as the week continued. His story reminds me a little of Kony Ealy’s last year. The adjustment to the pros was noticeable, but it shouldn’t worry.
Bene’ Benwikere- Really he probably belongs in the unidentified flying objects second because he hasn’t participated. Benwikere was designated to the PUP list to ensure his ankle/leg injury is fully healed before taking the field. Reports about his rehab have been positive, but it is concerning that Bene’ will be both returning from a severe injury and transitioning from a nickel corner to playing with the big boys on the outside. There are a lot of unknowns.
Teddy Williams- Really a forgotten part of the secondary, Williams has been viewed as a special teams ace only. Reportedly, he's been walking the line between physical, competitive, and getting a little too chippy for some of the offensive guys tastes.
UFOs (Unidentified Flying Objects)....I know it’s corny, but I couldn’t think of another astronomical reference other than dark matter:
Philly Brown- We heard he gained 20 lbs. It’s been crickets since.
Kony Ealy- He’s an important piece of the puzzle and he’s concussed. Saturday, Ealy suffered a helmet to helmet and is now in the concussion protocol. It’s not that his play has suffered, it’s just he hasn’t had much time on the field.
Devon Johnson- Suffering from a re-aggravated back injury. Was an injury that derailed his senior season. He’s a fan favorite, but he’s going to have a hard time earning a hat.
Kawann Short- He’s been adamant about not causing a stir concerning his contract. He did finish the first week of camp with a random Twitter autograph giveaway if you sent him a picture of yourself smiling. #SmileChallenge
Tre Boston- He’s really a critical piece of Carolina’s defensive plan this year. Without Roman Harper, and because of the inexperience at cornerback, Boston needs to clean up any trash that makes it to the second level. I can’t remember hearing his name once in these opening practices.
Keyarris Garrett- He was a fan sensation during Rookie Mini-Camp, but he's been buried in the roster behind some talented receivers. There's not much more to go on than hope following the early hype.
Fozzy Whittaker and Brandon Wegher- There should be plenty of opportunities for these guys as Carolina treats Jonathan Stewart with kids gloves as usual. Neither has made any noticeable waves, however.
These notes are clearly not exhaustive. We’d love to hear any additional camp news or takes you’ve seen or run across. What matchups are you watching? Do you read the training camp tea leaves differently? Drop a comment or link a tweet or story below.
By the Professor, aka Tony Dunn
Follow on Twitter @Cat_Chronicles