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Panthers minicamp observations: Sam Darnold has better day on second day of practice

·4 min read

After the defense got the better of him on Day 1 of minicamp, Sam Darnold turned the tables.

Albeit two of the Panthers’ best pass rushers were wearing a red jersey and did not participate in 11-on-11 drills, Darnold was accurate. He threw two touchdowns passes — one to running back Reggie Bonnafon and another to tight end Ian Thomas. Both were inside the 10-yard line on situational drills.

Darnold also threw a 40-yard Hail Mary pass to Dan Arnold, though the defense was asked to back off. Still, the catch was impressive as he was able to keep both feet in bounds in the back of the end zone.

Darnold has had a few balls tipped at the line of scrimmage the past few days. He said that is something they will look at on film.

“On the tipped balls, we were right on where we were going with the football,” he said. “The defense just did a good job of getting their hands up. If there was one coaching point, it would be maybe sliding and trying to find a window.”

When asked what he’s trying to improve on this season, Darnold said his consistency.

“I think last year, and the years prior, there were splash plays and things I did well, even splash games throughout the season,” Darnold said. “But really working on being a consistent football player. ... The biggest thing with that is just to come out here every day and be the same person and have consistent energy.”

Notes from practice

Thomas caught one touchdown and dropped what would have been a touchdown on another play. Coach Matt Rhule said he wasn’t concerned with Thomas’ drops.

He said the fourth-year tight end is having a good camp. Thomas is on the last year of his rookie deal. He struggled last season, catching only 20 passes for 145 yards and one touchdown. But he hopes to improve this year.

“Tips and overthows are where most interceptions come from, so I think we are still a work-in-progress in a lot of different areas,” Rhule said.

On the defensive side of the ball, rookie cornerback Keith Taylor made the biggest play.

Will Grier’s pass was tipped, allowing Taylor to come up with the interception. The Panthers took Taylor in the fifth round of the 2021 draft. Defensive coordinator Phil Snow has been complimentary of the rookie this offseason.

Grier has struggled. He has thrown three interceptions in the past two days. Grier, a former third-round pick, was active in only two games last year.

Running back Christian McCaffrey said what has excited him most so far in camp is that the Panthers are practicing situational football right now. Last season, the Panthers didn’t have OTAs and minicamp to practice. It was also one of the things former Panthers quarterback Teddy Bridgewater said the Panthers needed to practice more.

“I think that’s such an important thing to master,” McCaffrey said. “How do you perform when there is a pressure situations. On third down and two minute situations. Going through all the situational football now and having the playbook already learned and being able to focus on technique and execution and critical situations I think is going to make our team better.”

Panthers owner David Tepper was at practice for the second consecutive day. He stood with general manager Scott Fitterer on the field as he watched the 11-on-11 portion.

There was perfect attendance at practice for the second consecutive day. A few players remain in red jerseys, which indicate an injured player, including Brian Burns, Yetur Gross-Matos, Jeremy Chinn, Terrace Marshall, Cameron Erving, Shi Smith, Troy Pride Jr. and Morgan Fox.

But all participated in some fashion. Erving said Tuesday that he expects to be the starting left tackle, but he remained limited.

In the situational drills, McCaffrey served as a captain for the offense, and Shaq Thompson was the captain of the defense. Both were allowed to call timeouts if needed.

Panthers kicker Joey Slye was put in a situation to kick a game-winning field goal from about 40 yards to end practice. He hit it.

Last month, Darnold said since moving in to his place in Charlotte, he hasn’t gotten a bed frame or the second half of his sectional couch.

When asked Wednesday, had he gotten the second half of the sectional, Darnold laughed and said he hadn’t.

“It’s fine though,” he said. “I’m just by myself hanging. It works for me.”