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Previewing Panthers' minicamp

4/28/2010

I'll be heading to Charlotte for this weekend's minicamp with the Panthers. It's going to be a little bit of a strange atmosphere up there because, for a change, the Panthers won't be the biggest story in Charlotte.

Tiger Woods is in town. He's playing in a pro-am today that also features Carolina coach John Fox, who by all accounts, can swing the sticks pretty well. But I still think Jimmy Clausen's going to get his share of attention this weekend.

Here are five things I'll be paying particular attention to at Carolina's minicamp:

1. Clausen. Although he fell to the second round, Clausen's still the biggest-name quarterback to come to the Panthers since Chris Weinke. All right, that's not exactly a flattering comparison. But Clausen comes with a lot of hype and it won't just be the media watching his every move. If this guy's going to have a shot to beat out Matt Moore from the start, he's going to have to fit in the locker room. Clausen's got a reputation for being selfish. Moore's very well liked in that locker room. Besides showing passing skills, Clausen needs to show some humility.

2. Jon Beason. This guy's been a leader since about the second game of his rookie year. It just comes naturally to Beason. But I'm expecting to see him step forward even more and officially claim this team as his own. Julius Peppers never was a leader, but some people were hesitant to do anything that might give the appearance of stepping on his toes. Safety Chris Harris, who was traded to Chicago on Tuesday, was a bit of a vocal leader on the defense, even if he wasn't the best player. Now, it's clear, Beason is the best player on the defense and a vocal leader. He's free to lead with everything he's got. It's his team and his time.

3. The wide receivers beyond Steve Smith. I'm sure we'll get some of the same old talk about how this will be the year Dwayne Jarrett finally breaks out. It could happen. But the Panthers aren't counting on that. That's why they drafted Brandon LaFell and Armanti Edwards. It's going to be hard to judge their readiness in a three-day minicamp, but I'm hoping Fox breaks his tradition of bringing rookie receivers along slowly. He needs to take a chance and turn these guys loose from the start.

4. The competition at strongside linebacker. The departure of former starter Na'il Diggs really wasn't that big a deal. He was pretty ordinary. But the Panthers are having an open competition to replace him. They've got James Anderson, Dan Connor, rookie Eric Norwood and Jamar Williams, who came over in the Harris trade. They're going to throw them all out there and see who rises up.

5. The defensive ends. Peppers is gone and someone's got to step up. I've only seen quick glimpses of Everette Brown in games last season and last year's training camp. Brown is the guy the Panthers drafted last year to eventually replace Peppers. Now is the time for him to step up.