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The rookies: What to look for at Carolina Panthers' newcomers camp
First step to opening-day roster starts Friday
Published Thursday, May 9, 2019 11:44 am
by Herbert L. White | The Charlotte Post

Former Florida running back Jordan Scarlett, the Panthers’ fifth-round pick, will try to earn a job backing up Christian McCaffrey.

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The first step toward earning NFL jobs starts for rookies this weekend.

Carolina Panthers rookies make their debut at Bank of America Stadium Friday with three days of drills. Of particular interest are this year’s draft picks and how they’ll fit in as the Panthers look to add assets around and in front of quarterback Cam Newton as well as a defense that’s evolving into some 3-4 schemes.

Aside from Carolina’s seven draft picks, there’s always the possibility of surprises among the four undrafted rookie free agents brought in to audition for spots on the training camp roster.

Here’s a few plots to follow:

Edge hybrids
Draft picks Brian Burns and Christian Miller were brought in as speed pass rushers who project as pass defenders when Carolina flexes into a 3-4 scheme.

Burns, the 16th player taken overall, projects as more of a defensive end and the heir apparent to Julius Peppers, a likely first-ballot Hall of Fame inductee and Carolina’s all-time sacks leader.

Miller, the 115th pick, is a lighter version but the Panthers brass believes he has the physical assets to handle the transition to NFL edge rusher.

Bookend help at offensive tackle
Carolina doubled down for depth by drafting Greg Little 37th overall and Dennis Daly in the sixth round, 212 overall.

Little, who played at Mississippi, has first-round ability, but scouts raised concerns about his willingness to maximize his talent. If the Panthers can get him engaged, he adds versatility to a unit that’s rebuilding after cutting left tackle Matt Kalil and signing right tackle Darryl Williams to a one-year rental.

Daly, who played at South Carolina, projects as a developmental talent, but if he shows some versatility could make his way onto the opening day roster.

Will Grier’s ability
One of the more popular – or polarizing – picks isn’t because of the former Davidson Day quarterback’s college accomplishments. Panthers coach Ron Rivera and general manager Marty Hurney insist Cam Newton is the face of the franchise, but there’s no doubt Grier is their initiative to develop better depth at the position. After a couple of shoulder surgeries in the last three years, Newton’s health is a concern. Is Grier more capable of running an NFL offense than Carolina’s veteran backups? We’ll find out at some point.

Scarlett’s letter
Fifth-round pick Jordan Scarlett could qualify as a surprise pick given Carolina has Christian McCaffrey at running back and multiple off-field issues during his college days at Florida that dropped him down to the 154th pick.

If you’re sticking to productivity, though, Scarlett held his own with the Gators, starting 12 of 13 games in 2018, rushing for 776 yards on 131 carries (5.9 yards per attempt) and five touchdowns. He’s a physical specimen at 5-11, 208 pounds, and if he’s grown as an individual, might be a steal.

Undrafted sleepers
Former Georgia running back Elijah Holyfield, who rushed for more than 1,000 yards last year with the Bulldogs, is the most prominent name among four undrafted free agents Carolina signed, although it’s not necessarily football-related. The son of former heavyweight boxing champion Evander Holyfield is a physical runner, but is he capable of grabbing a spot behind Christian McCaffrey given the veterans already in the mix?

Another sleeper is former Utah safety Corrion Ballard, who will likely get a longer look with Carolina parting ways with former safety DaNorris Searcy earlier this week. Ballard played strong and weakside for the Utes, and at 6-3 and 200 pounds, brings size to the secondary. Keep in mind the Panthers didn’t draft a safety and haven’t been much of an active shopper in free agency, so there’s an opportunity opposite Eric Reid.


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