NFL Nation: Philly Brown

W2W4: Panthers vs. Vikings

November, 30, 2014
Nov 30
8:00
AM ET
Three things to keep an eye on as the Carolina Panthers (3-7-1) face the Minnesota Vikings (4-7) at TCF Bank Stadium on Sunday at 1 p.m.
  • Newton
    Newton
    Cam Newton: This is becoming a trend, and unfortunately the trend has been bad for the Carolina quarterback. He’s thrown at least one interception in seven straight games, tying a team record. His completion percentage the past five games is a paltry 53.9. He hasn’t thrown a first-half touchdown during that stretch, and the Panthers haven’t scored a first-half touchdown. That’s alarming. For the Panthers to be a factor in this game and for the rest of the season, Newton has to get off to a fast start and do a better job of game-management. It’s not all on Newton, though. The offensive line has to play better for him to have a chance. That he will have a new starting right tackle in Mike Remmers, who has played as a backup in one game in three years, won’t make that easy.
  • Philly Brown: The Panthers released veteran wide receiver Jason Avant, according to head coach Ron Rivera, so they can get the undrafted rookie Brown on the field more. Rivera hopes the speed Brown showed getting past the secondary for a 47-yard touchdown catch in the fourth quarter against Atlanta will force teams to get out of man-to-man coverage on a receiving corps that has struggled to get separation. If that happens, teams won’t be able to stack an extra player in the box to stop the run, which should help open up the overall offense.
  • The run defense: Minnesota will attempt to establish the run to take the pressure off rookie quarterback Teddy Bridgewater. The Vikings rank 13th in the NFL in rushing with 116.5 yards a game. The Panthers have held their past four opponents to just over 86 yards rushing a game. Making the Vikings one-dimensional and putting the pressure on Bridgewater to win the game will be key. It also will allow the Panthers to bring more pressure with the pass rush. Bridgewater already has been sacked 22 times in eight games.

The Film Don’t Lie: Panthers

October, 7, 2014
Oct 7
11:00
AM ET
A weekly look at what the Carolina Panthers must fix:

An area that needs fixing before the Panthers face Cincinnati on Sunday is one that ironically resulted in a big play in this past week’s 31-24 victory over Chicago: the punt return.

On its first punt, Chicago’s gunners easily got around Carolina’s outside protection. The Panthers were fortunate in two ways on this play. First, Teddy Williams hit punt returner Philly Brown before the ball arrived at the 25. As players from both sides scrambled for the loose ball, Brown was asking the nearest official for a flag that already had been thrown. That’s when the Panthers were greeted by good fortune a second time. The ball rolled out of a pile to Brown, who had the awareness to pick it up and return it 79 yards for a touchdown. Yes, the ball was live, and the touchdown ended an NFL-long streak of 164 games without a punt return for a touchdown.

As happy as Carolina coach Ron Rivera was, he reminded everyone that the protection has to improve. "The guys who are holding up [the gunners] have got to give him a chance."

Brown has enough trouble holding onto punts without a defender in his face. He dropped one early in the third quarter that the Panthers were fortunate to recover. He muffed a punt in a Week 3 loss to Pittsburgh and made it worse by fumbling after picking it up. That resulted in a Steelers touchdown. He’s dropped a punt in almost every game this season.

Cincinnati ranks second in the NFL in punt coverage, allowing only 3.1 yards a return. Only San Diego at 1.7 yards per return is better. The Bengals' gunners get to the returner fast. Before Sunday, the Panthers were averaging 5.7 yards a return. Only 11 teams ranked worse. If Carolina wants to take advantage of Brown’s “dynamic’’ speed, the protection has to improve.
CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Observed and heard in the locker room after the Carolina Panthers'
31-24 victory over the Chicago Bears:
  • Johnson
    Defensive end Charles Johnson was holding a football that coach Ron Rivera had dropped by his locker a few seconds earlier. To paraphrase, Rivera told Johnson he’s been “wanting one of these, now you’ve got it." Johnson didn’t want a game ball. He wanted a sack. Third on Carolina’s all-time sack list, he didn’t have one in the first four games and was feeling pressure.
  • The best quote came from Johnson as well. Asked about Carolina getting four sacks after having only one the previous two weeks, Johnson said defensive coordinator Sean McDermott came in at halftime and “took the chains off and told us to go eat."
  • Quarterback Cam Newton, before he took off his pads and before he went for treatment, stopped by the locker of rookie wide receiver Kelvin Benjamin to let him know he was going to be “on his ass" this week. Benjamin had a couple of big drops that could have made Newton’s final rating look even better and the win a little easier. It was all playful, though.
  • Wide receiver Philly Brown explained how he was talking to the official about throwing a flag against the Bears for interfering with him catching a first-quarter punt when he noticed the ball on the ground. You might know the rest of the story by now. Brown picked up the ball and returned it 79 yards for his first NFL touchdown. He also ended Carolina’s streak of 164 games, the longest in the league, with no returns for touchdowns.
  • It was hard to tell what made tight end Greg Olsen happier, catching two touchdown passes, beating his former team or having all three of his kids at a game for the first time. Knowing all he’s gone through with his son T.J.’s third surgery on his heart, I’m guessing the kids.
  • A lot of questions about Carolina (3-2) leading the NFC South despite playing horribly the past two weeks.
CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- On a Sunday night when the defense looked dreadful, when the offense was down to a running back signed off of the practice squad a day earlier because of injuries, there was one bright spot for the Carolina Panthers.

Philly Brown.

And even he had a moment he would like to forget in the 37-19 loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers.

[+] EnlargePhilly Brown
AP Photo/Bob LeveroneCarolinia's Philly Brown runs for extra yardage after one of his seven catches Sunday.
Let's get that out of the way first. Brown, who had a habit of dropping punts in training camp, dropped one with 11 minutes remaining that Pittsburgh recovered for a touchdown to make it 30-13.

But the undrafted rookie out of Ohio State did enough good things at wide receiver that the dropped punt should not spoil what one day might be looked at as his NFL coming out party.

With starting wide receiver Jerricho Cotchery (hamstring) inactive and No. 3 receiver Jason Avant also slowed by a hamstring injury, Brown got his first start. He didn't disappoint, catching seven passes on nine targets for 66 yards.

He showed the potential to be the speed receiver that the Panthers (2-1) lost in Ted Ginn Jr., who signed with Arizona during the offseason.

"My thing to him was he had too much of a good game to dwell on something that bad," quarterback Cam Newton said. "That's just the moral of the game. One play it was this player [making a mistake], the next play it was that player.

"People just took turns making mistakes."

Maybe that was to be expected, at least offensively. The Panthers spent much of the week working without Cotchery and Avant, as well as starting running back DeAngelo Williams (hamstring) and reserve Fozzy Whittaker (quad).

The depth at running back also took a hit in the game as Jonathan Stewart and Mike Tolbert went down with leg injuries, leaving undrafted rookie Darrin Reaves as the only healthy back.

Brown stepped up when he was needed.

"Philly is a great player, and you saw that today," Newton said."I have no doubt in my mind he will bounce back and be a big impact for us."

Newton showed confidence in Brown from the get-go. He connected with him for an 11-yard gain on Carolina's second play. He came right back to him for nine yards on a pass Brown had to reach back and catch.

"I tried to catch everything my way and show the coaches and the team I can play," said Brown, who got the nickname Philly at Ohio State because there was another Brown with his given first name, Corey.

The Panthers know he can play. That is why they kept him on the 53-man roster above veterans such as Tavarres King and Tiquan Underwood when making cuts.

As for returning punts, there might be growing pains. But unless the Panthers sign somebody else, they don't have many options. Whittaker, next in line to return kicks, missed his second straight game.

Nobody else has Brown's elite speed.

"We will continue to evaluate it, but right now [Brown] is the most dynamic of all of them that we have," coach Ron Rivera said. "He has had success in college and we expect him to have success here."

Based on what Brown did as a receiver, there is plenty of upside.

"Basically, I was trying to do too much at the time," Brown said of the muffed punt. "I could have just done the smart play and fell on it, but instead I picked it up. It's something that I'm going to learn from and move on and get better and start focusing on next week."

But he shouldn't let it spoil his day.
CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- While Stephen Hill was blaming New York media for getting cut by the Jets, media covering the Carolina Panthers debated how long it would take the wide receiver to be activated to the 53-man roster.

Popular opinion? It won't be long.

Hill
 The Panthers signed the Jets' 2012 second-round pick to the practice squad on Tuesday. Practice squads typically are filled by undrafted players, not the 43rd overall selection.

To Hill's credit, he has taken the demotion well.

"It's just a step back, but I can take some more steps forward," he said Wednesday. "I'm just going to take this and run with it. I'm ready to try my best to get on that 53-man roster."

The Panthers were familiar with the former Georgia Tech star long before he was cut. They used one of their 30 visits for draft-eligible players to work him out in Charlotte two years ago.

What's not to like? At 6-foot-4 and 215 pounds, Hill has all the physical attributes Carolina general manager Dave Gettleman looks for. Hill is also fast. His 4.36 time in the 40-yard dash tied for the fastest among wide receivers at the 2012 combine.

If there's one thing Carolina's rebuilt wide-receiver corps lacks, it's elite speed.

Hill's issue in New York was inconsistency. To be specific, he dropped too many passes.

Hill was quick to remind there are receivers on other NFL rosters with more drops than him. Count Brandon LaFell, Carolina's No. 2 receiver last season and now a member of the New England Patriots, among those.

LaFell had a team-best eight drops last season and 15 in four years.

Hill's agent, Alan Herman, said his client didn't get a fair shake in New York, saying the inconsistencies the team had at quarterback were the biggest issue. Hill didn't blame the quarterbacks as much as he did the media.

He says he's ready to move on. Having the opportunity to work with Carolina wide receivers coach Ricky Proehl, one of the best technicians in the game during his 17 years as a player, should be a plus.

Proehl helped turn around Ted Ginn Jr.'s career last season. Ginn, now at Arizona, went from two catches with San Francisco in 2012 to 36 for 556 yards and five touchdowns at Carolina last season.

Hill doesn't have that far to go. In his two seasons with the Jets, he caught 45 passes for 594 yards and four touchdowns.

He can be the deep threat Ginn was. Only undrafted rookie Philly Brown has elite speed among the five receivers on Carolina's current 53-man roster. And Brown is there more for his abilities as a kick returner than a receiver. He has troubles with drops, too.

"He can run -- 4.3 is pretty fast -- and he's a big, physical guy," backup quarterback Derek Anderson said of Hill. "Now we'll teach him and get out of him what we can."

Hill won't be moved to the 53-man roster for Sunday's opener at Tampa Bay. Coach Ron Rivera made that clear, reminding Hill has a lot to learn about his new scheme.

But it wouldn't be a reach to suggest Hill could move up by the second or third week. You don't sign a second-round pick to leave him on the practice squad.

"We were really the only ones who showed interest in him," Rivera said. "So hopefully, that means we’ll get a nice long look at him. We'll work him and see how he'll potentially fit us. And if the opportunity arises to bring him up, we will."


PITTSBURGH -- It certainly looked like a fourth preseason game, from the swaths of empty seats at Heinz Field to the uneven play with many starters from each side playing sparingly, if at all.

Carolina parlayed a big pass play into the game’s only touchdown ,and the Panthers beat the Steelers 10-0 Thursday night with the specter of final cuts looming for fringe players on each side.

Landry Jones started at quarterback and completed 14 of 18 passes for 97 yards before giving way to Brendon Kay midway through the third quarter. Jones, a fourth-round pick in 2013, didn’t lead any scoring drives but probably did enough to make the 53-man roster as the Steelers’ No. 3 quarterback.

No Steelers player battling for a roster spot made a particularly compelling argument to stay with the team beyond 4 p.m. ET Saturday, the NFL deadline for finalizing 53-man rosters.

Brad Wing looked like he was on his way to nailing down a roster spot after pinning the Panthers deep in their own territory several times. Then the Aussie unleashed a 25-yard clunker, something that will make the coaches ponder whether Wing is consistent enough to be trusted.

Players such as Wing have made their final argument as far as making the team.

The Steelers’ coaches and front office personnel will meet on Friday to start paring down the roster and could make some cuts then, with the rest coming on Saturday. The Steelers have to cut 22 players to get to the 53-man limit by late Saturday afternoon.

Some other thoughts from the Steelers’ fourth preseason game:
  • It was a very nice bounce-back game for starting outside linebacker Jarvis Jones after the second-year man struggled a week ago in Philadelphia. Jones made his presence felt early against the pass and the run, and the Steelers coaches had to love his hustle after a snap sailed over the head of Panthers quarterback Derek Anderson in the second quarter. Anderson tried to pick the ball up, and when he couldn’t get a handle on it Jones made a diving recovery. He then got up and started to rumble downfield, drawing a personal foul penalty when former Steelers center Fernando Velasco dragged Jones down by his hair. Jones recorded three tackles, including one for a loss, and the fumble recovery before calling it a night.
  • If the Steelers only keep five wide receivers Justin Brown might be headed back to the practice squad. The wide receiver who created such a buzz during offseason practices caught five passes for 32 yards in four preseason games despite playing more snaps than any other Steelers skill player. Hard-charging Darrius Heyward-Bey caught six passes for 44 yards against the Panthers and solidified his spot on the 53-man roster even if the Steelers only keep five wideouts. His speed and experience -- and his production in the Steelers' final two preseason games -- will make Heyward-Bey too difficult to cut
  • David Paulson and Rob Blanchflower needed to beat Michael Palmer for the No. 3 spot at tight end, and neither was able to do it. Palmer had a couple of nice blocks early when the Steelers were able to run the ball, and the fifth-year veteran is solid on special teams. He solidified his spot on the 53-man roster, and Blanchflower looks like a strong candidate for the practice squad.
  • Cornerback Antwon Blake had played well before getting beat badly on a 53-yard catch by wide receiver Philly Brown, setting up the Panthers’ only touchdown. Blake will make the Steelers as a core special-teams player but Brice McCain has clearly established himself as the No. 4 cornerback assuming the groin injury he suffered against the Panthers isn’t serious.
  • The Steelers showed an interesting defensive look late in the second quarter. Josh Mauro, Roy Philon, Daniel McCullers and Ethan Hemer were up front with Vince Williams and Terence Garvin as the only linebackers in the game. However, Shamarko Thomas played close enough to the line of scrimmage that it looked like the Steelers had their big nickel package on the field with four down linemen.
Most significant move: Carolina thought so much of wide receiver Tiquan Underwood in free agency that it gave him a two-year deal that included a $300,000 signing bonus. The hope was he would replace Ted Ginn Jr. as the speed receiver and possibly double as a return specialist. It never happened. Underwood continued to show the inconsistencies as a receiver that have plagued him throughout his career. For every good catch he made in practice, he had at least one drop, and he was cut for the ninth time in his career.

Wild card: Wide receiver Marvin McNutt was mentioned as a young player the Panthers wanted to get a good look at when they released Steve Smith in March. He never was a factor in being among the top six. Kealoha Pilares was listed as the No. 1 kickoff returner halfway through training camp in Spartanburg, but he never did anything as a receiver to justify wasting a spot on the roster.

What's next: You'd think the Panthers would scour the waiver wires looking for a return specialist who also can play wide receiver. Not so quick. Coach Ron Rivera says he likes undrafted rookie Philly Brown as a returner and sees potential in the former Ohio State star as a receiver. Brown has the speed the Panthers were looking for in Underwood, and he'll cost a lot less. That being said, I still wouldn't be surprised to see the Panthers take a shot at somebody when final cuts are made.

Panthers moves: Released -- WR Tiquan Underwood, WR Toney Clemons, P Jordan Gay, DT Linden Gaydosh, DE Alex Hall, T Oscar Johnson, WR Marvin McNutt, LB Anthony Morales, WR Kealoha Pilares, DE Craig Roh. PUP -- WR De'Andre Presley. IR -- QB Matt Blanchard, TE D.C. Jefferson, C Kevin Matthews.

 

W2W4: Carolina Panthers

August, 22, 2014
Aug 22
12:00
PM ET
The Carolina Panthers (1-1) face the New England Patriots (1-1) at 7:30 p.m. at Gillette Stadium.

Here are three things to watch for:

1. Timing: It was obvious that quarterback Cam Newton needs more time working with his new receivers after he made his preseason debut in Sunday night's 28-16 victory over Kansas City. He started 1-for-5, missing rookie wide receiver Kelvin Benjamin wide open down the left sideline at one point. The Panthers have increased Newton's reps in practice, but as coach Ron Rivera acknowledged, you can't simulate game speed. Newton will play the first half. It will be his last significant tune-up for the regular season with starters expected to play sparingly -- if at all -- in the final preseason game. He has shown chemistry with Benjamin and his other receivers in practice, but now needs to do that in a game. The Patriots should be a good test. They had two forced fumbles and two interceptions that they turned into 21 points in last week's 42-35 exhibition win over Philadelphia.

2. Time to step up: The Panthers signed free agent wide receiver Tiquan Underwood to a two-year deal after losing their top four receivers from 2013. You don't do that unless you expect him to make the roster. As of now he's on the outside looking in. The top three are Benjamin, Jerricho Cotchery and Jason Avant. If the season started today, because of his return duties, undrafted rookie Philly Brown would be the fourth. Brenton Bersin would be the fifth in the team activated five. Odds are Carolina won't keep more than six receivers on their 53-man roster. Rivera continues to harp that he wants to see one or two outside the top three step up. Underwood is one of those because of his elite speed, something the top three don't have and another reason Brown's stock has risen. That the opponent is New England is a bit ironic because the Patriots released him the night before their Super Bowl loss to the Giants during the 2011 season. Rivera is going to give the young receivers more opportunities. If Underwood doesn't step up, he could be in danger of being cut for the ninth time in his career.

3. Time to start fast: The Carolina defense has started slowly in each of the first two preseason games, giving up big chunks of yardage early. The Panthers were outgained 114-1 at one point during the first quarter, but to their credit gave up only a pair of field goals. Many of those yards were surrendered due to mistakes or communication breakdowns in the secondary. Some of that has to do with a new group of defensive backs learning each other. Melvin White and Antoine Cason appear to have nailed down the starting corner jobs, and Charles Godfrey appears set as the nickelback in his transition from safety. But starting strong safety Roman Harper (turf toe) has yet to play in a preseason game and won't again tonight, leaving unheralded Anderson Russell and Robert Lester fighting for the backup job. Free safety Thomas DeCoud is in his first season with Carolina, so he's still adjusting to the system. Facing Future Hall of Fame quarterback Tom Brady should give this group a good idea of where they are.

W2W4: Carolina Panthers

August, 17, 2014
Aug 17
12:00
PM ET
The Carolina Panthers (0-1) face the Kansas City Chiefs (1-0) on Sunday at 8 p.m. ET at Bank of America Stadium.

Here are three things to watch for during the game:
  • Quarterback watch: Cam Newton will get his first test of the preseason after sitting out the opener. He will play at least the first quarter and into the second if the offensive line is giving him adequate protection. He is showing no ill effects from offseason surgery on his left ankle and was turned loose to run the read-option a week ago in practice. He won't run the read-option against the Chiefs. He will do as little running as possible as the Panthers want to remain cautious. The key is to take the chemistry Newton has shown with his new receivers in practice into the game -- particularly with first-round draft pick Kelvin Benjamin. Their college teams aside, Newton and Benjamin have developed a close bond off the field, and they're anxious to establish that in games. Benjamin is a big target at 6-foot-5, and Newton has had no hesitation giving him chances to make catches in practice.
  • Double trouble: Starting running back DeAngelo Williams was given the night off for the preseason opener, and backup Jonathan Stewart was nursing a hamstring injury. Both will play Sunday, the first time they have both been this healthy at the same time in a few seasons. Because they give Carolina a nice change of pace with their running styles, Williams more the outside threat and Stewart the power runner, it will be interesting to see how they work behind basically a new offensive line. The Panthers want to establish the ball control offense that was a big part of last season's success. These two will be key to that.
  • Got a nickel: Safety-turned-cornerback Charles Godfrey was exposed big time in the preseason opener, surrendering a 32-yard catch on Buffalo's first possession. He and cornerback Antoine Cason say there was a breakdown in communication and that it has been fixed. Godfrey is key to the defense playing at the level it did a season ago when it ranked second in the league. If he can make the transition from safety to nickelback and effectively shut down the opponent's big receiver in the slot -- not to mention bring the heat on blitzes -- there shouldn't be a drop-off. In practice he is still showing inconsistency in coverage, and he hasn't done well on one-on-one drills rushing the passer.

Panthers Camp Report: Day 15

August, 12, 2014
Aug 12
3:30
PM ET
SPARTANBURG, S.C. -- A daily review of the hot topics coming out of the Carolina Panthers training camp from Wofford College:
  • Rookie wide receiver Kelvin Benjamin went high over the middle and hauled down yet another touchdown from quarterback Cam Newton in the final red-zone drills. The first-round pick out of Florida State clearly established himself as the top receiver coming out of training camp. If you ask me, he's the MVP of this camp because Carolina needed somebody to step forward and replace Steve Smith as a big-time weapon. Benjamin did.
  • Defensive end Frank Alexander was coach Ron Rivera's unofficial camp MVP. Entering his fourth season, Alexander has been suspended for the first four games for violating the league's substance abuse policy. He looked like a player fighting for his future, practicing harder and more consistently than ever. Rivera's second pick for MVP was defensive end Greg Hardy, whose well-documented off-the-field troubles have him playing for his future. Hardy was everywhere in the final practice, unstoppable on one-on-one pass rush drills against the tackles and guards. He also had two knockdowns in pass coverage, one more than 20 yards deep against tight end Greg Olsen.
  • Rivera might have second-thoughts about being the pretend quarterback during one-on-one pass-rushing drills. At one point on Tuesday linebacker Thomas Davis blew up his defender and then took a friendly shot at the coach that might have been harder than he intended. "Yes, he did,'' Rivera said. "I told him, 'If I bruise, he and I will have a conversation tomorrow." He liked the intensity Davis showed, though.
  • Much has been made about the close relationship between Benjamin and Newton. Add Davis and middle linebacker Luke Kuechly to that seemingly inseparable list of couples. "In all honesty, that's almost been since day one,'' Rivera said. "They do spend a lot of time together, and it's almost kind of scary, because as you watch them, you watch the rapport that they develop. And this is what you look for, is the unsaid communications. A guy can look or point, and the other guy knows what the other one's going to do. That type of relationship is key to being successful, whether it's on the offensive side or the defensive side."
  • Don't be surprised if undrafted wide receiver Philly Brown makes a late push to make the 53-man roster as a receiver and return specialist. Both Rivera and general manager Dave Gettleman mentioned him as a player to watch moving forward, particularly as a return specialist. Gettleman still hasn't ruled out that the returners might not be on the roster.
  • The Panthers returned to Charlotte where they will complete the rest of the preseason preparation. They are off on Wednesday then resume practice on Thursday.
CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- "Smoo" or "Schmoo" or whatever Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton called rookie wide receiver Kelvin Benjamin after Friday night's amazing catch, it's a keeper.

Think about it. Every time Benjamin makes a big catch the crowd can shout "Smoooooooooo" or "Schmooooooo." It will sound like a boo just like it does when the crowd screams "Luuuuuuuuuu-ke'' when middle linebacker Luke Kuechly makes a big play.

[+] EnlargeKelvin Benjamin
AP Photo/Mike McCarnKelvin Benjamin showed the ability to make key catches on Friday.
And if Friday night and training camp are good indicators, Benjamin will make plenty of big catches.

If you missed the one in the 20-18 preseason loss to the Buffalo Bills, the former Florida State standout stepped on the heel of cornerback Stephon Gilmore as he approached the goal line, stumbled to the ground, gathered himself and sprawled his 6-foot-5, 240-pound body out as he went to the ground for the catch.

"Smooooooooooo!!!"

"Schmooooooooo!!!"

We may never know what "Smoo" or "Schmoo" means. Benjamin has no idea and Newton says "the world may never know."

When pressed if perhaps it could be short for "Smooooooth," Newton replied to the reporter, "Mr. Newton, you are too impatient."

No arguments here.

Regardless, "Smoo" or "Schmoo" is a keeper.

Here are a few other leftover thoughts from Carolina's preseason opener:

  • Third-string quarterback Joe Webb did about everything the Panthers imagined when they signed him to imitate starter Cam Newton. He completed 16 of 28 pass attempts for 180 yards and a touchdown. He led the team in rushing with 30 yards on four carries. Unfortunately, when all is said and done I just don't see the Panthers keeping three quarterbacks even though coach Ron Rivera says it's a possibility.
  • With Benjamin, Jerricho Cotchery and Jason Avant locks at wide receiver, the other two or three spots remain up for grabs. Tavarres King helped his stock with four catches for 50 yards. He had another long reception negated by a holding call. Undrafted rookie Philly Brown caught three passes for 23 yards. Marcus Lucas had a costly drop. Brenton Bersin, who has impressed in camp, was targeted four times but caught only one pass for 19 yards. Stay tuned.
  • Tight end Brandon Williams deserves a spot on the final roster. The former college basketball player has been impressive in camp, and he backed that up with three catches for 50 yards and a touchdown against Buffalo.
  • Cornerback Josh Norman continues to be a training camp phenom. The former Coastal Carolina star, who had four interceptions during one practice in 2012 and led the Panthers in picks during the 2013 preseason, had another in the end zone against Buffalo to draw praise from Rivera.
  • How valuable is kicker Graham Gano, who did not play with a sore lower back? His replacement, Jordan Gay, missed the first extra point from 33 yards. That forced Carolina to go for two after its next two touchdowns. Had Gano played and made the first, Carolina kicks the last two and wins 21-20.
  • Newton didn't get the "official" word he was being held out until he was getting treatment before kickoff even though Rivera and company never had serious plans to play him. As I said on Friday, it was the right call. No need to rush him back until he's turned fully loose to run in practice, which should be soon. "It's not how I felt, it's about my progression," Newton said. "It's a plan that's in place for me to be back there. Do I want to be out there? Absolutely I do. But have to be smart. Have to be coachable, too."
  • Sunday's 6:10 p.m. ET practice at Wofford College in Spartanburg, S.C., has been moved to 3:10 p.m. The 3:10 p.m. Monday and Tuesday practices will be moved to 9:25 a.m. as the Panthers wrap up camp.

Panthers Camp Report: Day 11

August, 6, 2014
Aug 6
4:30
PM ET
SPARTANBURG, S.C. -- A daily review of the hot topics coming out of the Carolina Panthers training camp from Wofford College:
  • Breaking news: Rookie wide receiver Kelvin Benjamin didn't catch a pass in team drills for the first time in training camp -- aside from the days he was out nursing a bruised left knee. He didn't drop one, either. Benjamin hasn't dropped a pass in any of the team drills. The 28th pick of the draft just wasn't targeted on Wednesday as defensive coordinator Sean McDermott mixed up his schemes a bit to focus on the 6-foot-5 receiver. Many times Benjamin was pressed, and other times he was part of a zone coverage that left him blanketed. The good news: When Benjamin was covered, others were open.
  • It raised a red flag among reporters when quarterback Cam Newton didn't take snaps during the first few sessions of team drills. That he spent that time working with trainers and coaches apart from the pack while backup Derek Anderson took snaps with the first team appeared to suggest he would not play in Friday's exhibition opener against Buffalo. That still might be the case, as the Panthers are being cautious with Newton in his comeback from March ankle surgery. But as coach Ron Rivera noted, Newton was doing exactly what had been scripted for him days in advance. When Newton finally got into team drills, he completed his first six pass attempts and finished 8-for-10. The two incompletions were spikes because of a misread by the quarterback or his receivers. Newton's plan for Friday will be determined on Thursday. If he plays, it won't be for more than two series, and most of those plays will be runs. Rivera doesn't want Newton reacting to potential pressure from the Bills' pass rush and instinctively putting stress on the ankle when it isn't necessary.
  • It was a big day for undrafted rookie wide receiver Philly Brown. He got open deep on safety Robert Lester for a long touchdown catch from Newton and made at least two other nice catches. Once he went up and over safety Tom Nelson for a sideline catch. He actually landed awkwardly on Nelson. Brown is one of a handful of receivers fighting for the last spot or two, depending on whether the Panthers keep five or six receivers. As Rivera noted, Brown has been "hot and cold'' as far as consistency. He'll likely need to impress as a punt returner as well to make the final roster.
  • Wide receiver Kealoha Pilares, for now, has solidified himself as the top kickoff returner. That might be his best chance of making the team because he hasn't stood out as a receiver. He also plays on coverage teams.
  • Rivera said defensive end Charles Johnson will not play Friday if he doesn't practice Thursday. Johnson has missed the last three practices with a hamstring injury. ... Running back Kenjon Barner (leg) returned after missing four practices and looked good. ... Wide receiver Tavarres King (leg) returned after missing two practices and made a nice, one-handed catch. He is the fourth of five receivers at this point.
  • Thursday's practice is scheduled for 9:25 a.m.

Panthers Camp Report: Day 3

July, 27, 2014
Jul 27
7:15
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SPARTANBURG, S.C. -- A daily review of the hot topics coming out of the Carolina Panthers training camp from Wofford College:
  • If you were looking for something definitive at the left tackle position after the first practice in pads, sorry. Byron Bell and Nate Chandler both got opportunities there and both did well in giving quarterback Cam Newton time to throw. Bell started off on the left side during 7-on-7 drills and Chandler began team drills there. In one-on-one drills Chandler did a nice job of taking defensive end Charles Johnson to the ground once. The Panthers will continue to use both players there for the next few weeks as they look to replace retired Jordan Gross, who has lost so much weight he could play tight end or wide receiver. Coach Ron Rivera wants to make a decision on the starter after the second preseason game. The Panthers will face some good pass-rushers in Buffalo end Mario Williams and Kansas City linebackers Justin Houston and Dee Ford from a 3-4 set. Williams had 4.5 sacks in Week 2 against Carolina last season with most coming against Bell playing right tackle. Stay tuned. Too close to call, but both are showing potential.
  • Tight end Greg Olsen was wide open on a touchdown catch down the left sideline. Tight end Ed Dickson made a diving catch on a slant pattern. Tight end Brandon Williams made a nice over-the-shoulder catch deep in traffic. Tight end Mike McNeill made a tough catch in traffic over the middle. Tight end D.C. Jefferson made a solid catch in stride about 25 yards deep. Notice a theme here? The Panthers have more than enough choices to complement Olsen as they go to a two-tight end set. It's a luxury they haven't had since Jeremy Shockey was here in 2011. And I haven't mentioned Richie Brockel, who is listed as a TE/FB. The team kept four tight ends last season, and Rivera says there is a scenario where it could keep five this year. This definitely softens the blow of losing the top four wide receivers from last season.
  • Rookie wide receiver Kelvin Benjamin made an acrobatic, twisting catch on a high pass from Cam Newton on the first play of 7-on-7 drills. He snagged a somewhat high bullet over the middle on the first play of team drills. He caught a nice out pattern on the first series of another team session. In other words, the 28th pick of the draft is becoming quite comfortable with Newton in a hurry. A lot of this may have to do with the two staying in Charlotte, North Carolina, to work out together while the team was off from June 19 through last Thursday. If they continue to develop this chemistry people may forget Steve Smith, the team's all-time leading receiver who was cut during the offseason.
  • Philly Brown went to the ground and did what appeared to be 20 pushups after having a punt bounce off his chest early in practice. There were drops by a few other returners as the Panthers attempt to replace Ted Ginn Jr., who signed with Arizona in free agency. Don't think Rivera didn't notice it. "The thing we have to understand is first and foremost we have to catch the ball. I could care less if we fair catch it every time, but we've got to catch it.'' The leader in the clubhouse for the job might be Antoine Cason, who returned punts at San Diego while Rivera was there. It's interesting that speedster Tiquan Underwood hasn't been given a chance there yet, but Rivera said others could be added to the mix that so far includes Cason, Kenjon Barner and Brown. Bottom line, the Panthers will miss Ginn much more here more than they will at receiver.
  • Carolina holds its first morning practice on Monday after two night practices and a 3:10 p.m. session. Sunday's workout was somewhat sloppy, and Rivera reminded players of that afterwards, telling them he "expected a better practice tomorrow.''

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