I don’t know how Peter King bounces camp to camp to camp. Maybe it’s the planes and the money. Me, I’m unemployed and only close to one team’s camp. The Panthers train in Spartanburg, South Carolina on the campus of Wofford College. It’s a little over an hour drive from Charlotte, especially if you have Jersey plates and don’t want any run-ins with the law. Since I’m new to the area, any time I drive more than a half hour away I’m seeing something new.
Example: a billboard advertising a rodeo hall for lease and a giant peach tower.
The first practice was schedule to begin at 9 a.m. with a second session at 6:30 in the evening. At 8:51 I heard the first air horn. Cool, I forgot about that, they really use them here. I love air horns! There are two adjacent practice fields at the bottom of a pretty big hill. Fans are allowed to stand pretty close on two of the four side of the fields. I parked myself in the end zone of the field that the offense was warming up on. The defense started on the other field, but once the 9 a.m. air horn sounded the whole team came together to stretch. From there they broke in to position groups.
The quarterbacks came trotting down to the end zone that I was in to do some foot work drills. A lot rides on this group this year and a lot will be made of the pecking order in camp. As it stands right now, based on the order in which they took their reps, Matt Moore is first, followed by Hunter Cantwell, a ginger, Jimmy Clausen who signed on Wednesday, and Tony Pike, the 6th round pick from Cincinnati. It seems like a
matter of time before at least Clausen passes Cantwell on the depth chart, but Pike might not be far behind. The first thing I noticed is that Pike seems way taller than the other quarterbacks. He’s listed at 6’6”, with Moore and Clausen listed at 6’3”. I’m not quarterback foot work scout, so I really can’t offer an opinion on that. I will say that Clausen was the first one to take off his helmet. During my glory days at Piscataway High School, we weren’t allowed to take off our helmets, or else! It’s a discipline thing for young kids, I get it, and it probably means nothing at the pro level, it’s just something I notice. Pike was the second to take his off, so maybe it’s a rookie thing. Moore and Cantwell didn’t take their’s off until later. Did I mention that a half hour into practice, I was licking my own sweat off of my face? I don’t know if this is the hottest that I’ve ever been, but it’s close. I can’t even think of when second place would be.
I don’t know what it is about Clausen that rubs me the wrong way. Maybe it’s listening to the media too much, maybe it’s him throwing a receiver under the bus in that show with John Gruden last year, or maybe it’s the fact that he reminds me of Gilbert Grape . Would you want Gilbert Grape as the quarterback of your team?
It was weird to watch Clausen throw passes to Armanti Edwards, the quarterback turned receiver from Appalachian State. You remember him, he was the quarterback that beat Michigan at the beginning of the ’07 season. Does Clausen have a win that impressive? Edwards is a local favorite and no lock to make the team. He was making plays all morning. My first official blog prediction is that me makes one or two nice plays in a preseason game and they find a spot for him on the regular season roster.
Also of note is how quiet the quarterback group was. Historically quarterbacks are the second smartest group on a team behind the offensive line, so maybe they weren’t being quiet, but cerebral. It just struck me as odd that it was basically silent in our end zone while the sounds of the defensive line destroying a blocking sled were echoing off the trees. It seems obvious to say that the receivers and defensive backs were always yapping about something, but maybe you’re new to the sport. Now you know.
Speaking of receivers, that brings me to the pride of New Brunswick, NJ. Not you Grease Trucks.
I’m talking about Dwayne Jarett. With Steve Smith sitting out with a broken arm, Jarett is the most experienced receiver on this team. Going in to his fourth season, he has only one touchdown. He’s largely been a disappointment, but from what I’ve heard from a few fans he’s great in practice so I’m happy I’m here. You know those stories about Jerry Rice running to the end zone after every catch in practice no matter how far away it was? Jarett doesn’t do that. I watched him catch balls at the ten yard line, jog to the five, then turn around. Finish! Just finish the run! Since he’s the most experienced receiver on the field, he goes first in all the drills. I will not be fooled in to thinking that this makes him a leader.
I had to step away at one point to do a phone interview with an unemployment claims dude, so I missed some drills, but apparently Charly Martin made some nice catches. He seemed to be doing it all day. Martin is the Panthers little, white receiver that plays special teams and looks like he’s trying his ass off. Every team has one, he is theirs.
As for the defense, I saw Jon Beason get his hands on two Matt Moore passes. He dropped them both, but neither receiver even got a hand on them, one of them being DeAngelo Williams.
Dan Connor looked quick in his new middle linebacker spot. He’s taking over for Beason who’s moving to the weak side until Thomas Davis comes back, which may not happen this year.
I tried all morning to spot John Fox. In my twenties I could spot a coach sixty yards away like George Costanza spots dimes, but I’m older now. I kept seeing a skinny guy far away that walked just like Fox, and no one else was walking like John Fox. It’s sad that I can tell a coach’s walk from sixty yards away, but my verdict is that John Fox lost some weight. I’ll be on the hunt for confirmation in the evening.
I’ll leave you with a note on DeAngelo Williams, my fantasy team’s keeper this year. This was one of the first things I saw when I got to camp today.