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Six Observations from the Panthers Rookie Minicamp

An inside look at how the weekend went for the Panthers' rookies.

The Carolina Panthers wrapped up their two-day rookie minicamp on Sunday afternoon, the first phase of integrating the newcomers. 

Matt Corral and the quarterbacks jumped rope, twirled the ball between their legs, and went through footwork drills while the o-linemen used bag and yoga balls and the d-linemen hit the sleds. Obviously, there was more to the two day practice than just simple little drills, but much of it was just teaching them how to practice while also installing some of the plays. It's hard to truly gauge how good any of these rookies will be solely based off of this weekend, but I did get a pretty good feel for their potential/how they may be used. 

With that said, let's run through each of the Panthers' draftees. 

OT Ikem Ekwonu

Ekwonu already looks the part. It's easy to see why everyone in the Panthers' building calls him a tone-setter. There were a couple of times that he nearly ran the guy (another lineman) holding the pad into the ground. He's just a massive human being who has tremendous strength. He'll be starting at left tackle from day one. 

QB Matt Corral

They really didn't throw the ball downfield much with Corral over the weekend. It was a lot of underneath stuff and some play-action that had him rolling to both sides. When he did stand firm in the pocket, he looked comfortable. The five and seven step drops are something that will take some time for him to get used to, but this offense will primarily run out of the gun anyway. On tape, Corral had one of the quickest releases I've seen. In person, it looked even quicker. It's a natural, effortless motion that is something I haven't seen before. He was very accurate with the ball and on the few shots they did take downfield, he put it right on the money. 

LB Brandon Smith

Smith is freakishly athletic. A big linebacker that runs like a safety. They had him lined up at all three linebacker spots, but mainly at WILL. He won't be in the starting lineup initially, but if he can put it all together, the Panthers will have found a gem in the fourth round. There's a lot of technical things that he needs to clean up before he's given a major role. One thing I liked most about him, was how vocal he was. Constantly communicating and pumping up his teammates. 

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DE Amaré Barno

Barno looked a little bigger than he did at the Combine. Not sure if he added any weight or not, but the frame is already starting to fill out which is good news for Phil Snow. Rhule said that he hopes that eventually, he can fill into a similar role that Haason Reddick had as an edge rushing linebacker that can drop back into coverage. That may be the long-term vision, but he looked more comfortable with his hand in the dirt. He did play linebacker before moving to defensive end, but the reason he was moved down is because he was thinking too much and not playing full speed. 

OL Cade Mays

Future starter. I know that's a bit of a bold statement considering it's just rookie minicamp and he's a sixth round pick, but I've felt that way since the first time I flicked on his tape. Is he going to be a fixture up front? Maybe not, but there's a lot to like about him, mainly his versatility. Mays has played all five spots on the line, but according to Rhule will start on the inside. Honestly, compares very much to fellow Panther, Bradley Bozeman. 

CB Kalon Barnes

From where we were allowed to stand, I couldn't see much of the defensive back drills to get a good read on how Barnes was doing. When he hit the field with the rest of the defense, you could see that there were some things that need some fine tuning. Speedy as advertised and will spend a lot of time with Chris Tabor on the special teams unit. 

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