It sounded Sunday like Kyle Allen still has an edge over rookie Will Grier in the race to be the Carolina Panthers’ backup quarterback.
Neither led the Panthers to a touchdown in a 27-14 preseason loss to the Buffalo Bills. After reviewing Friday’s game, coach Ron Rivera said he likes how Allen manages pressure and needs Grier to process his options more efficiently.
“Kyle is as resilient and aloof to pressure as I’ve ever seen in a quarterback,” Rivera said after Sunday practice. “Will is trying so hard; he’s a young guy who wants to learn and do things the right way. He’s just got to relax, in my opinion. From what I see, he’s just pressing sometimes.”
Neither quarterback posted good statistics, and starter Cam Newton sat out the Bills game. In his second start this preseason, Allen completed just four of his 11 passing attempts for 32 yards. Grier’s percentages were better -- 10-of-19 -- but he threw an interception that was returned for a Buffalo touchdown and nearly had another pass intercepted; he also threw a pick against the Chicago Bears. Fourth-stringer Taylor Heinicke threw the Panthers’ only touchdown pass, a 9-yard completion to Rashad Ross in the fourth quarter.
Rivera has said Newton will play Thursday against the New England Patriots, which should be his only preseason-game appearance. The backup spot is still open, with plenty to correct.
“You’d like to see Will go through his progressions a little bit quicker,” Rivera said of Grier, a third-round pick and the only quarterback the Panthers have drafted since taking Newton first overall in 2011. “For the most part, he made good decisions, but he’s got to get through those progressions. He’s got to learn, to understand that the idea is to protect (against) coverages a little better.
“Kyle’s biggest mistakes were some of his poor ball-placement. You’ve got to give your (receivers) a chance to help you downfield.”
Rivera was careful Sunday not to lay too much blame on the quarterbacks for the Panthers generating just six points over the first three quarters. He said they were faced with frequent “1st-and-20” situations, which reflected all the penalties, including four holds by offensive lineman (one declined) before halftime.
Tight end Ian Thomas, who missed all last week with a rib injury suffered against the Bears, returned to practice Sunday.
Thomas said his injury wasn’t a crack, and while he might wear some extra padding initially, he doesn’t anticipate practicing or playing with a flak jacket.
A rookie out of Indiana, Thomas was thrown into the starting lineup the final six games of last season because of Greg Olsen’s broken foot. He played well, averaging better than nine yards per reception, and validated that progress with several acrobatic catches in Spartanburg before being hurt in Chicago.
Thomas said he’s far more comfortable in what the NFL entails this season, whether it be diet, sleep or having all the tools at home, such as stretching bands, to help prevent injury.
“You can see how he’s a little more confident and more comfortable in what he does,” Rivera said. “I still think he has a lot of things to make up. He missed most of (off-season activities with a leg injury) and part of last week. There’s a lot for him to pick up and get going.”
The Panthers are scheduled to practice inside their new bubble Monday, in anticipation of 92-degree highs in Charlotte and little or no cloud cover. Rivera said the players will warm up outdoors, then go inside for team drills.
Panthers owner David Tepper mentioned that new practice bubble during a visit to Spartanburg in discussing where the Panthers might hold training camp in 2020 while a training facility is built in York County. Tepper said the Panthers could return to Wofford College next summer, where they have long held camp, or hold camp in Charlotte to additionally utilize the bubble.
The primary function of that bubble is not to have to practice in a ballroom at the convention center in inclement weather. But it’s also to avoid extreme heat. Rivera talked a week ago about how a heat index that reached above 100 degrees in a late-afternoon practice hurt performance late in the session.
No comment from Cox
Panthers defensive end Bryan Cox Jr. declined comment to Observer columnist Scott Fowler on Sunday regarding his recent run-in with the N.C. Highway Patrol.
Cox was cited for speeding, possession of marijuana and possession of drug paraphernalia on the final day of the team’s training camp. Cox was pulled over on Interstate-85 northbound near Bessemer City for driving 90 mph in a 65-mph zone. He had in his possession less than a half-ounce of marijuana when he was stopped.
Cox played against the Bills, and the team has taken no public disciplinary action.