WR Edwards 1 of 5 surprises from Panthers minicamp

jperson@charlotteobserver.comJune 19, 2013 

Panthers_OTA_20

Carolina Panthers' Armanti Edwards (14) makes a catch during OTA workouts on May 30, 2013. David T. Foster III-dtfoster@charlotteobserver.com

DAVID T. FOSTER III — dtfoster@charlotteobserver.com Buy Photo

It was three days in shorts and helmets.

So Panthers first-year general manager Dave Gettleman, while pleased with what he saw during the mandatory minicamp last week, cautioned not to put too much stock in it.

The real test will come in Spartanburg in six weeks when the pads come on and the intensity rises along with the heat and humidity.

But there were a number of pleasant surprises during the Panthers’ minicamp. Here are five:

1) Armanti Edwards – Some have been trying to bury the former Appalachian State QB for two years.

When the Panthers drafted Joe Adams in 2012, Edwards would be gone. When they signed Ted Ginn Jr. this past offseason, surely that would be the last of Edwards in Charlotte. Or so the thinking went.

Entering Year 4 of the Armanti Experiment, Edwards is beginning to look like an NFL receiver. He’s running fluid routes and catching the ball in traffic.

It likely won’t be enough to make him the No. 3 wideout. But it should keep him on the roster for another year.

2) Josh Norman – Panthers coach Ron Rivera says both cornerback spots are wide open, but Josh Thomas and Norman spent a lot of time with the first team last week. Norman was benched at the end of his rookie season because of his inconsistent play and freelancing in coverage.

Secondary coach Steve Wilks said Norman came back for his second season more disciplined and focused. He has the talent and confidence to be successful if he improves his technique, particularly in zone coverage.

3) Star Lotulelei – The All-American nose tackle from Utah showed up in good shape and was everything the Panthers thought they were getting when they drafted him 14th overall. Maybe a little more.

On draft night, the Panthers said Lotulelei needed to improve as a pass rusher. And with second-round pick Kawann Short more accomplished in that area, it was thought Lotulelei might come out in certain passing situations.

But he was on the field a lot during minicamp.

Rivera says Lotulelei already has “come a long way” as far as using his hands to shed blockers.

4) Robert Lester – A school-record nine players from Alabama were drafted in April. Lester wasn’t one of them.

But the former Crimson Tide safety, who had 14 interceptions and was part of two national title teams in Tuscaloosa, had a solid spring and is in the mix for the strong safety spot opposite Charles Godfrey.

Lester has good size (6-1, 215 pounds) and instincts, and that championship pedigree.

5) Ben Hartsock – The veteran tight end showed he could catch the ball. Who knew?

Hartsock spent most of his first nine seasons as a glorified third tackle, clearing space for running backs and protecting quarterbacks and rarely getting any balls thrown his way.

But Cam Newton targeted Hartsock on a number of underneath routes at minicamp, and Hartsock caught everything.

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