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by Patrick Magoon

Three days ago all of the rookie athletes and tryout players hoping to make the Carolina Panthers 53-man roster jogged out to the practice field outside of Bank of America Stadium to participate in a series of drills and showcase their talent to the coaching staff for the Carolina Panthers. It was a toasty 90-plus degree weekend here in Charlotte, NC or as LSU cornerback Donte Jackson likes to call it, “Louisiana weather.” “That’s my element right here,” said Jackson as he confidently takes the field with his head held high and shoulders swaying back and forth. Here is what we saw and learned from rookie training camp:

Twenty-eight new faces showed up to the field ready to give it all they got. There are only a handful of tryout players that Rivera is expected to sign this summer. Some of the players that stood out as solid talents: Wide receivers Da’Ron Brown and Bug Howard, running back Kalif Phillips, offensive linemen Quinterrius Eatmon, Kyle Friend, and defensive end Marquis Haynes.

“I can play in this league. I know my work ethic and how hard I push myself,” Phillips said via Panthers.com. “I’m going to keep on pushing.

There were two takeaways on defense. There was a tipped ball snagged by safety Malik Smith, who took off down the left side of the field. Also, seventh-round defensive tackle Kendrick Norris took to the ground to scoop up a bad handoff. Eric Washington spent a significant chunk of training camp time running drills that emphasize the importance of forcing a fumble and scoring off of a turnover when on defense. Seventh-round linebacker Andre Smith received some praise from teammates and newly hired linebacker coach Steve Russ.

Head coach Ron Rivera and general manager Marty Hurney are in the process of picking the right candidate to backup MVP quarterback Cam Newton. There are four players that they are actively competing to play behind Newton. Hurney could choose to offer a contract extension to unrestricted free agent veteran quarterback Derek Anderson. If Hurney elects to let Anderson walk, undrafted free agent Kyle Allen, Garrett Gilbert or Taylor Heinicke are the next best options. Rivera has spoken highly of Gilbert.

“There really isn’t a leader in the clubhouse, but if I had to pick one I would go with Garrett,” Rivera said via Panthers.com. “He’s done a nice job so far. He’s really doing some good things. Again, we’ll see. That’s why we go through this whole process.”

Although rookie training camp is over, the training for draft picks and tryout players has only begun. There will be more training sessions for rookies this week, and then the new players will connect with veteran players at organized team activities (OTAs) during the summer before heading off to training camp in South Carolina come August.

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