Panthers position group that has impressed, training camp joint practices updates

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The Carolina Panthers will have a busy month of training camp this year.

The team officially announced Tuesday that joint practices will be held with both the Indianapolis Colts and the Baltimore Ravens prior to each of its first two preseason games. Head coach Matt Rhule confirmed the practices with the Colts earlier this month.

Practices with the Colts will be held Aug. 12-13 at Grand Park Sports Campus in Westfield, Ind., just outside of Indianapolis. The team will not have any public practices Aug. 14 before playing the Colts on the road Sunday, Aug 15.

The Panthers will be hosting the Ravens at Wofford College on Aug. 18-19 before playing at Bank of America Stadium on Aug. 21.

Plans to practice against Baltimore during training camp last year were canceled due to a league-wide policy that prohibited joint practices due to COVID-19. Teams around the NFL are able to practice against other teams and hold training camp remotely, which the Panthers are taking advantage of.

Rhule said that it is important for a team like the Panthers to get in a significant amount of live reps prior to the season.

“I think we’re such a young team,” Rhule said in May. “As many full-speed reps as we can get vs. other teams, that at the same time aren’t necessarily live, every rep that Sam (Darnold), PJ (Walker) and Will (Grier) gets where they’re seeing a rush, but they’re not getting tackled, accelerates their growth.”

There will only be three preseason games this year for every team except the Dallas Cowboys and the Pittsburgh Steelers, who will face off in the Hall of Fame Game. The Panthers host the Steelers on Aug. 27 to close out the preseason.

The league is allowing fans to be in attendance at training camp, although they must maintain at least 20 feet of distance from players and coaches. The Panthers have not yet shared official information regarding fan attendance at practices.

Wrapping up OTAs and minicamp

The Panthers players are officially on summer “vacation” until the team reports to Spartanburg, S.C., on July 27. The team’s rookies stayed a bit longer than the veterans after the conclusion of minicamp for some meetings and other work.

After the conclusion of the second day of mandatory minicamp last week, Rhule was asked what position group he feels is in a better spot or is further along than he would have expected.

“Positionally, I would probably say corner. That’s a place that stands out to me because we brought so many guys in,” Rhule said. “I think Rashaan Melvin’s had a really good camp. I think A.J. Bouye’s had a really good camp. Then we have the young guys, learning as they go, and Donte (Jackson) is growing as a player, which I’ve really liked a lot of things that Donte’s done. So I’d say corner stands out to me in terms of just making some steps.”

Carolina Panthers cornerback Donte Jackson (26) battles for the ball against Chicago Bears wide receiver Darnell Mooney (11) in first half action Sunday, Oct. 18, 2020.
Carolina Panthers cornerback Donte Jackson (26) battles for the ball against Chicago Bears wide receiver Darnell Mooney (11) in first half action Sunday, Oct. 18, 2020.

Corner was a weakness for the Panthers last year due to Jackson’s lingering toe injury, bringing in free agent Eli Apple being unsuccessful, the up-and-down play of Rasul Douglas and the youth of Troy Pride. The team brought in veterans Melvin and Bouye this offseason to go along with Jackson, who is in the final year of his rookie deal.

Of course, the Panthers used the eighth overall pick on South Carolina corner Jaycee Horn, who missed some of OTAs due to a mini contract holdout, and Pride may not be ready for training camp as he continues to recover from injury. Still, corner has the potential to be the position that takes the biggest step forward for the Panthers 2021.

Rhule said last week that rookie offensive lineman Brady Christensen has been practicing at right tackle. The coaching staff feels he may be better on the right side due to not having the length of a left tackle. Christensen has 32 1/4 inch arms; the average can be closer to 34 for a left tackle. Rhule said he could still be an “excellent” guard and has the potential to play on the left side still, as he did at BYU.

Only two of the Panthers’ 11 draft picks remain unsigned — Christensen and tight end Tommy Tremble.

Multiple players shared on social media that they received the COVID-19 vaccine before departing from minicamp, including rookie wide receiver Shi Smith and safety Sam Franklin.

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