The Carolina Panthers training camp is in full swing down at Wofford College in Spartanburg, South Carolina. The team hosts a solid mix of savvy veterans, fringe players aiming to make the squad, a few highly intriguing rookies, and a handful of guys with question marks next to their names as the 2021 season approaches.
Let's start with one of those highly intriguing rookies who happened to have an incredible day of practice: cornerback Jaycee Horn. Jaycee looks every bit of his quoted 6-foot 1-inch frame as you glance at him on the defense and can immediately notice his stature. Horn drew a lot of attention from teammates, coaches, and fans in the crowd as he secured two interceptions on the day, picking off both Sam Darnold and P.J. Walker respectively. Granted, this is only practice and one without pads to add, however, Horn looks like he has the makings of a true number 1 corner in this league. The one knock I would have to give on Jaycee would be that he tends to play a lot with his hands. He will almost certainly draw penalties early in the season getting a bit too grabby but I have no doubt he will adapt and be able to shut down some high-caliber receivers. I expect Horn to be the best corner on this team sooner rather than later.
Another rookie that Panthers fans have high hopes for is former LSU wide receiver Terrace Marshall Jr. Early in his career, he seems to be taking the majority of his reps from the slot with veteran Robby Anderson at the "X" position on the outside. Marshall looked rather comfortable working from the slot, showing his ability to run efficient routes across the field. I did not view much of Marshall running go routes but I wouldn't say that is going to be the system going forward. The trio of Marshall, Anderson, and Moore will be solid for this team going forward.
One of the biggest (if not the biggest) question marks this Carolina Panthers team has going forward is new QB Sam Darnold. To be honest, Darnold looked right where he needed to be this far into camp. I wish I could tell you he was out there putting each and every ball where it needed to be and his chemistry with the wideouts was impeccable; but that is just not the case yet (hence 2 picks by Horn, 1 by Sean Chandler). A lot of timing issues need to be worked out but that is what camp and preseason are for. There was also a lot of upside for Sam. There were several instances of him hitting running back Christian McCaffrey in stride on swing routes, connecting with his old friend Robby Anderson on fly routes, and making the smartest possible reads when the play breaks down. Perhaps my favorite play of Darnold's on the day on Monday was a beautiful throw in which he stepped up into the pocket and delivered a dart 14 yards down the field, something Panther fans haven't seen for a while...
Finally, these Panthers do the little things you love to see in camp. Whether it's D.J. Moore running laps around the field with a ball in his hands or their intense focus during indy offensive and defensive drills. This Panthers squad is one that is hungry and wants to win and wants to do so now.