Panthers minicamp observations: Sam Darnold didn’t have a great day, and that’s OK

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Multiple interceptions, a tipped pass and a couple of pass blocks; Tuesday was a good day to be a Carolina Panthers defensive player.

The defense had the better performance at the first of two full mandatory minicamp practices that the Panthers will hold this week with players such as Brian Burns, Jeremy Chinn and Morgan Fox, all still limited participants in the offseason program due to various injuries.

While the interception by Haason Reddick off a tipped pass from Sam Darnold is nice to see for one side of the team, coach Matt Rhule said guard John Miller was quick to remind him of some of the limits the offense has had with little to no contact by the linemen allowed. After all, it is still just football in shorts.

“I just complained to the offense about how many tipped balls they have, and even (Miller) said to me, he’s like, ‘coach, if they do that in the game, I’d pull the guy down. I can’t pull him down right now or else you’ll snap.’ ”

Quarterback Will Grier was intercepted twice, including a pick by safety J.T. Ibe, who handed the ball to newly signed first-round pick, and fellow former South Carolina Gamecock, Jaycee Horn to finish running into the end zone. While all three quarterbacks — Darnold, Grier and P.J. Walker — had throws that they would have liked back, including one by Darnold to wide receiver Brandon Zylstra that sailed way over his head, Rhule said he would prefer this to no issues right now.

“I don’t want (Darnold) to have great days, to be honest with you, right now,” Rhule said. “Because that means we’re not making things hard enough for him. I want him to have good days of just steady progress, to be good days slowly to great days.”

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Notes from practice

Safety Kenny Robinson and defensive back Myles Hartsfield each had interceptions during practice.

The Panthers had full attendance at practice, including owner David Tepper watching almost the entire two-hour session. Offensive lineman Cam Erving and a couple of others spent significant time inside of the team’s practice bubble while everyone else was practicing on the field.

Erving declined to share exactly what he is dealing with but did say that he is expecting to be healthy for camp. The team has informed him he will be playing left tackle, although part of the reason he was acquired was because of his versatility. The veteran has experience playing all five positions along the line, but is expecting to be the front runner at l position.

The competition for the left tackle position will extend far into training camp and the preseason, when players like Erving and Trent Scott are expected to be healthy and able to take live reps to compete against the likes of Greg Little and Dennis Daley.

“My whole career I’ve kind of been labeled as a jack-of-all-trades,” Erving said. “Now I’m getting the opportunity to go out there and play a position that I feel like I can excel at.”

Reddick has been able to take advantage of his experience playing at Temple under Rhule. The veteran defender said that some of the defense under coordinator Phil Snow has remained the same from their time with the Owls, while many of the concepts are similar from his previous team, the Arizona Cardinals.

He also commented that while not much has changed in regards to Rhule as a coach, he has become calmer and less strict toward players.

“I think that’s due to the fact that he understands that he’s dealing with veteran players,” Reddick said. “He has veteran players and he has guys that (have) made it. He’s now coaching guys that (are) on the highest level of football, it’s different from college.”

Rhule shared with the media Tuesday that he’s also trying to use Headspace, a meditation app, daily.

Robby Anderson was the only Panthers player missing from all of the organized team activities open to the media over the last three weeks. Tuesday, he participated in some team drills and special teams work. Anderson caught a couple of passes from his former quarterback in New York. Other veterans who were somewhat limited included wide receiver DJ Moore and linebacker Shaq Thompson as the team tries to get looks from other players.

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“I think we had a goal (for Anderson), like three to four reps every team drill. I think DJ’s rep goal was like two to three reps,” Rhule said. “I’m not gonna over-rep anybody. We kind of know those guys are established starters, this is a great opportunity this week, I think the approach this week like, hey let’s really give some of the other guys a chance to show what they can do as we make our evaluations.”

Speaking of evaluations, Rhule decided to not make Thursday a full minicamp practice, as previously scheduled. Instead, the team will practice the conditioning drill that they will do in the fall. The Panthers were one of the few teams around the NFL with a high attendance rate throughout the voluntary portion.

Rookie running back Chuba Hubbard was fully participating after being limited during OTAs due to a soft tissue injury. While there is a significant list of players who will remain limited in practice this week, Rhule said that he is still expecting almost all to be ready for training camp.

Cornerback Troy Pride Jr. is one who he singled out as likely needing more time after players report to training camp July 27.

Rookie wide receiver Shi Smith and Erving were the two players that spent some time on exercise bikes to the side of the field.

Tight end Stephen Sullivan made a solid grab in the end zone with safety Sean Chandler in coverage. Sullivan celebrated quite appropriately with a few choice words.

Safety Juston Burris was on the right end of a pass thrown in tight coverage by Darnold, knocking it down swiftly.

Full list of players trying out at minicamp: Wide receiver/returner Rashard Davis, safety Tenny Adewusi, safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, running back T.J. Yeldon, kicker Zane Gonzalez.

While the Panthers did bring in a kicker to work out, Rhule did not say they were necessarily going to have another one in training camp to compete against Joey Slye, as they have been happy with his offseason.

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