Ikem Ekwonu, Matt Corral spotlight Carolina Panthers camp


Carolina Panthers large receiver Ryan Switzer (12) walks to follow throughout rookie minicamp on the Panthers follow discipline in Charlotte, N.C., Friday, May 13, 2022.

Chill out and handle your expectations.

Coach Matt Rhule mentioned it greatest when describing his calculated optimism for the Panthers’ 2022 rookie class.

“This is a veteran-driven league,” Rhule mentioned after Day 1 of rookie mini-camp. “What you did in college, that’s great. That gets you here. Now it’s about what you do once you get here. The tone setters on this team are Christian McCaffrey. They’re Taylor Moton. It’s all those guys. The young players have to come in, they shouldn’t take a backseat to anybody. They’re all competing, but it’s about what you do moving forward.”

The Panthers’ low season program is nearing the tip of Phase One, which culminates this weekend with a three-day rookie mini-camp. Friday marked the primary time the six Panthers’ rookies and 13 undrafted free brokers practiced collectively on the fields exterior Bank of America Stadium.

Twenty-three tryout gamers, together with former Steelers and Tar Heel large receiver Ryan Switzer, joined the draft’s No. 6 general decide Ikem Ekwonu and third-round quarterback Matt Corral for a 90-minute follow stuffed with place drills, on-air scheme installs and aggressive seven-on-seven group classes.

Here are three key issues we realized from Day 1 of Panthers rookie mini-camp.

Matt Corral admittedly has rather a lot to be taught

Whenever Carolina practices all eyes will likely be on Corral. The No. 94 decide within the 2022 NFL Draft walked right into a quarterback room ripe for his taking. But that doesn’t imply he’s prepared, nor will the beginning job be handed to him.

He showcased his management skills by main the opposite quarterbacks (Davis Cheek and Anthony Russo) in place drills and group reps. When he wasn’t in, he stood close to a coach at all times looking for extra instruction.

After follow, Corral mentioned he threw the ball effectively. He’s proper. His launch is mesmerizing. Blink and also you’ll miss the ball go away his hand. During seven-on-seven group classes Corral accomplished 9 of his 15 passes, threw two red-zone touchdowns and didn’t flip the ball over.

But that’s all floor degree. Inside Corral’s head, his thoughts is soaking in new info and pre-snap obligations.

“Throwing the ball, I thought I threw well,” Corral mentioned. “But just keeping everything under control and having things organized in your head, I felt like I was everywhere but that is normal (for rookies).”

Coming from a heavy run-pass choice (RPO) offense at Ole Miss, his studying curve is steep. He’s excited by the problem slightly than discouraged. He took on an identical mindset throughout the NFL draft. Corral accepted a first-round invitation to be within the Vegas greenrooms. His identify wasn’t referred to as after Day 1. The wait continued by means of Round 2, till two quarterbacks (Desmond Ridder and Malik Willis) went earlier than him in Round 3.

He referred to as his draft expertise a cheerful and indignant one.

“It was a bunch of mixed emotions,” Corral mentioned of draft evening. “When I got that phone call, I have never truly been happy and sad at the same time. I have never felt that before.”

There isn’t any rush with Corral. He is just not prepared to begin. Rhule mentioned if Carolina needed to play a recreation at present Sam Darnold would begin. But he has the arm expertise, athleticism and management to be an NFL quarterback. Him beginning or not will come all the way down to what he can deal with mentally.

“We’re gonna start Matt (Corral) from the ground up. From taking a snap, the way we want him to take a snap, to taking his first step, to his drops, (recognizing) coverages, all those different things,” Rhule mentioned. “This is about us building a base and a fundamental structure. Getting in the huddle, getting out of the huddle, play-call structure, and understanding defense, everything. It’s making sure that we just start teaching him our way of doing it. And I know Ben (McAdoo) and Sean (Ryan) are on that.”

Ikem Ekwonu a ‘left side’ linemen

Only 4 offensive linemen are on the Panthers’ rookie mini-camp roster. In comparability, three quarterbacks, 4 tight ends and 9 receivers practiced Friday. Going by means of drills with so few our bodies pressured Ekwonu, No. 199 decide Cade Mays and try-out gamers Hunter Kelly and Wyatt Miller to remain prepared.

“Definitely got a lot of work in which is something that I was looking forward to, to make sure I develop and get really back into football shape as quick as I can,” Ekwonu mentioned. “There was less of a work-to-rest ratio, but definitely great work. And coach Campen definitely took care of us.”

Ekwonu stands out in any room he’s in, however enjoying subsequent to Kelly and Miller emphasised his first-round traits. He’s enormous however agency. His forearms, fingers, arm size and decrease physique are simply proportionally bigger than his fellow linemen.

The eye check is certainly one of many causes Carolina made Ekwonu the primary offensive participant chosen within the draft. The group has each intention to begin him at left sort out.

“We’re gonna play him at tackle. We have the ability to play at guard as well. We’ve been doing the same thing with Brady (Christensen),” Rhule mentioned. “We drafted him with the hopes of him playing at left tackle. But sometimes players need a year at guard before they go to tackle.”

The Panthers have choices throughout their offensive line because of common supervisor Scott Fitterer signing Austin Corbett and Bradly Bozeman in free company and drafting Christensen final 12 months. Rhule mentioned Christensen, Ekwonu and Dennis Daley are left-side gamers.

What is extra attention-grabbing is the place Carolina performs Mays. The former Tennessee lineman performed each sort out and guard within the SEC and excelled at each. Like Christensen, Mays has five-position flexibility. He took reps at guard and heart on Friday.

“He’s a guy that can do a lot of different things. It’s one of the reasons why we are excited about him,” Rhule mentioned. He’s able the place we’ll transfer him round.”

The Ben McAdoo impact

It’s unimaginable to not discover new offensive coordinator Ben McAdoo at Panthers follow. His enthralling presence has nothing to do together with his new coiffure or taller-in-person statue. Rather, the 44-year-old former Giants head coach merely instructions his offense. He’s respectfully loud, successfully holding gamers’ consideration when talking. He wastes no time. Each drill and each play has a clearly outlined goal.

It’s solely Day 1 of rookie minicamp, however the Panthers offense is already marinating in his affect.

“He knows exactly what he wants. There’s no gray area. Everyone understands what we’re asking them to be done,” Rhule mentioned of McAdoo. “The quarterbacks are working at a really high level and a lot is being thrown at the guys. We’re throwing installs at the guys. I think if you talk to some of our current players, they would say they’re being challenged. But it’s all organized and detailed. And they’re being held to a high standard.”

It’s early within the low season. The Panthers begin Phase 2 of their exercise program on Monday, the primary time rookies and veterans come collectively. Mandatory mini-camp is 4 weeks away. During that point, McAdoo will preserve molding the offense and his quarterbacks into savvy pre-snap decision-makers with fast releases.

This story was initially revealed May 13, 2022 6:40 PM.

Hailing from Minnesota, Ellis L. Williams joined the Observer in October 2021 to cowl the Carolina Panthers. Prior, he spent two years reporting on the Browns for Plain Dealer. Having escaped chilly winters, he’s thrilled to devour soccer, hoops, music and flicks throughout the Queen City.

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