Before the scuffle that became the news of the day, Carolina Panthers coaches were lamenting a lack of intensity and effort from the defense in early drills Monday.
Head coach Ron Rivera and defensive coordinator Sean McDermott loudly voiced their displeasure with the defense during early drills when both the first- and second-team offenses had their way with the defense.
It began on a zone-read rush by Newton where he faked a handoff to fullback Mike Tolbert and kept it, running around the left defensive end Kony Ealy and into the second level of the defense.
It continued as the offensive line won battles against the defensive line and both Newton and backup quarterback Derek Anderson completed nearly every pass.
Anderson even found undrafted rookie tight end Jamie Childers in a soft spot in the defense behind Jason Trusnik for a big gain.
“This is not the show team!” Rivera shouted at the defense, referring to a dummy defense used during practices to simulate that week’s opponent.
Rivera wanted to see more out of his defense in what he called the final big practice before Friday’s exhibition against the Buffalo Bills.
“I came in and one of the things I talked to them about was this is going to be our only real, true day to get some good work in terms of a thud,” Rivera said after practice. “Up-tempo, a big thud, getting ready to wrap up and tackle. Because the one thing that you don’t want to do is show up on game day and not be ready for it. And it was real disappointing in the first period.
“I expressed to those guys that Buffalo doesn’t care how you feel or what you think. They’re coming to play and coming in to set a tempo and we better be ready for it.”
Competition for No. 2 RB heating up at camp
There’s a strong competition brewing for the Panthers’ No. 2 running back position between Fozzy Whittaker and Cameron Artis-Payne.
Artis-Payne, a rookie from Auburn, has improved dramatically since summer workouts and is positioning himself to unseat Whittaker as the team’s No. 2 back.
But Whittaker, who last year flashed for the Panthers and even scored a playoff touchdown, isn’t going to just hand his spot over.
“There’s always competition, and that’s how I view it,” Whittaker said. “I’m always competing with (Jonathan Stewart), (Mike), Tolbert, Brandon (Wegher), Jordan (Todman). Everybody that’s on the football field I’m always competing (with). At the same time, the pressure that somebody may feel from me, I’m feeling it from them as well.
“Everybody knows that this is a business at the end of the day. But also at the end of the day they’re pushing me to get better as hopefully I’m pushing them.”
Whittaker is still better out of the backfield catching passes but Artis-Payne has shown great vision and patience as well as a strong ability to cut back on carries.
Where Artis-Payne must improve was highlighted Monday when he went up against rookie linebacker David Mayo in pass-rushing drills. Mayo beat Artis-Payne all three times they went against each other, including flattening the running back on his first rush.
DE Charles Johnson unlikely to play Friday vs. Bills
Defensive end Charles Johnson likely won’t play Friday against Buffalo, Rivera indicated.
Johnson injured his calf during Sunday’s practice and did not participate Monday. Rivera said the team will be cautious with Johnson, Carolina’s only established defensive end, this preseason.
“It was sore this morning,” Rivera said. “It wasn’t as bad as it was this morning but we’ll see. We’re going to be smart and the one thing we can’t afford is to not have him ready for the opener.”
There’s also no decision on rookie linebacker Shaq Thompson, who didn’t wear a shell or helmet Monday as he rehabbed his strained hamstring. Rivera’s hope is for Thompson to return to the field Tuesday but the team will have to see how he responds to Monday’s work on the sideline.
Defensive tackle Kawann Short (back) was limited and receiver Ted Ginn Jr. had a veteran’s day off. Guard Amini Silatolu (leg) also did not practice.
Cornerback Lou Young pulled his hamstring Sunday and there’s no indication he will be returning to the field soon, Rivera said.
▪ Cornerback T.J. Heath, who signed with the Panthers last week after the surprising retirement of Chris Houston, has already worked his way into the second-team rotation at cornerback. He’s had numerous pass breakups this camp, including two on his first day. He got work at the cornerback position opposite Melvin White after a few down days for second-year player Carrington Byndom.
▪ Now-retired offensive tackle Jonathan Martin broke his silence early Monday morning when he reactivated his Twitter account saying he was “gonna miss football.” “Proud to say I did it, even if not for as long as I wanted. Nothin but love for my Panthers & 49ers teammates,” Martin tweeted, leaving out his teammates in Miami where he was part of a bullying scandal.
▪ Left tackle Michael Oher held up well in his one-on-one battle with Frank Alexander, and then left guard Andrew Norwell won one-on-one against Kony Ealy at defensive tackle. Mario Addison got the better of Nate Chandler on an inside speed rush.
▪ Undrafted rookie receiver Damiere Byrd had what was perhaps his first drop of camp Monday. Derek Anderson fired a pass to Byrd, who had just caught one on the left sideline the play earlier, and it went through his hands. Byrd went down and immediately did 10 pushups.
▪ Safety Tre Boston had a near interception on Cam Newton during team drills. He dropped the pass, but he would have had plenty of momentum to carry him to the end zone had he controlled the ball.
▪ Newton and cornerback Josh Norman weren’t done after the fight. In team drills late in practice Newton fired a pass deep to Kelvin Benjamin but was long. Norman shouted to himself after the play.
▪ Melvin White had interception on Newton in 7-on-7s for his best play so far this camp.
▪ Safety Kurt Coleman lowered his shoulder and tried to hit running back Jonathan Stewart but instead bounced off him and Stewart kept running.
to know ...
Tight end Ed Dickson
NFL experience: Sixth year.
The scoop: Dickson had to play more of a blocking tight end role last year with injuries to fullbacks Mike Tolbert and Richie Brockel and didn’t find any comfort until late in the season. This year he’s firmly the No. 2 tight end behind Pro Bowler Greg Olsen, but Dickson hasn’t made much noise so far at camp. The addition of Devin Funchess, who can play some hybrid tight end, could mean fewer snaps for Dickson. But the Panthers will want his experience and blocking ability on the field for Cam Newton and the offense.
Twitter handle: @EdDickson84
Recent tweet: Showing the fans some love after a hot day at training camp. Got to love what you do #panthersnation
Center Ryan Kalil
Q. I’ve heard you’re a big fan of Cowbell. Is that true?
A. “Cowbell? Oh, the restaurant? Not the instrument? Yeah I do love me a cowbell instrument. But yes I do love Cowbell the restaurant.
Q. What’s your favorite dish?
A. “Dani California. It’s a turkey burger and some other ingredients.”
Q. Why’s it so good?
A. “They have a wide variety of burgers and it’s awesome because every time you go you can pick something new and you won’t be disappointed.”
Three to watch
Three Carolina Panthers to watch in Tuesday’s practice in Spartanburg:
24 Will Josh Norman still harbor any resentment for Cam Newton at Tuesday’s practice? Plenty of eyes will be on him.
75 Offensive tackle Tony Hills has struggled with his technique, and he needs to do more to justify his replacing Jonathan Martin.
7 Receiver Paul Browning had a nice catch going to the ground from Joe Webb Monday and he needs more of those to keep pace with Damiere Byrd and Mike Brown.