Hundreds of fans were on hand for the Carolina Panthers Back Together Saturday practice in Wofford’s Gibbs Stadium. The day included on-field performances by Panthers entertainment groups including the TopCats and Sir Purr, and activities such as a balloon artist, food trucks, interactive games, sponsor activations, autographs and of course…football.
Check out my observations from the day:
Fans lined up outside of Gibbs Stadium on the campus of Wofford College before 10 am for the Panthers’ annual Back Together Saturday. After two years of changes due to the Covid-19 pandemic, normalcy returned to the annual event at the end of the first week of training camp – including the ability for fans to get autographs from their favorite players. Attendees spread out along the home side of the stadium, while the visitor’s side was 2/3rds full with VIP guests and families of the players. There was an undeniable excitement in the air as fans cheered each reception and pass break up. Football is byke and Panthers Nation is ready.
Panthers legends Thomas Davis and Steve Smith Sr were on hand for Saturday’s events. Both were working with the NFL Network on their coverage. There’s no question that these two are still fan favorites and their names could he constantly heard being yelled out for a chance to get a picture, autograph, or even just acknowledgement.
Sam Darnold and Baker Mayfield didn’t put on the best showing for fans at Gibbs Stadium. Both rotated time with the first team. Baker started with the 1’s for the first seven-vs-seven drill where he was 2-4 passing and missed a wide open Christian McCaffrey on was would’ve been a walk-in touchdown. Mayfield did dump the ball off to Hubbard on the next play resulting in a score.
Darnold got into a rhythm on his first seven-vs-seven drill, going 4-4 passing (mainly underneath) and finding Jared Scott for the score, but when he was with the starters on the first 11-vs-11 drill Darnold was picked off by Jeremy Chinn, who read the route perfectly. Baker Mayfield was also intercepted on his first 11-vs-11 drill after getting a nice chunk of yardage on a pass to Rashard Higgins on 1st down.
In addition to the picks, there were a few inaccurate throws. Ironically, backup PJ Walker, although it was against the 3rd team defense, had the best looking day. 2022 3rd round draft pick Matt Corral, who seemed to be a fan favorite, also made a couple of nice throws and continued his trend of being the first player at practice.
Matt Rhule won’t say the defense is ahead of the offense, but I will. During an event where fans want to see plays that give them confidence in the offense, it was the defense that impressed the most. Donte Jackson locked down Robbie Anderson (but also received two pass interference calls in the process) and Jeremy Chinn finally got his hands on a pick. There were also several snaps that would’ve clearly been sacks in real-game situations. Taking the defense from “good-to-great” by generating more turnovers has been a focus heading into camp. Saturday the Panthers showed they’re moving in the right direction.
The Wrap Up
The first week of training camp is the books. Players will have Sunday off before returning to camp on Monday for the first day in pads. Neither quarterback has set himself apart early, but that all can change next week when the “real” football starts.