untung99.biz: Panthers stock report TEs and Jonathan Mingo rising while young edge rushers falling

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SPARTANBURG, S.C. — Bryce Young’s first Carolina Panthers training camp ended with a tweet Thursday, when the team announced it was canceling the final practice (and a second session with the New York Jets) after a strong storm swept through the Carolinas and soaked Wofford’s grass practice fields.

Frank Reich, part of a Panthers training camp for the first time since 1995, was pleased with what the team accomplished in Spartanburg. That included what he saw from Young, the 22-year-old quarterback and No. 1 pick who will make his preseason debut Saturday at home against the Jets.

“I think he’s checked every box that he was supposed to check through training camp,” Reich said Thursday. “His role of leadership in the locker room and on the field. His command of the offense. The continued physical skill that he has to distribute the ball all over the field are all things that showed up again and again while we were here.”

Young completed 93 of 145 passes during the 11-on-11 periods over 11 training camp practices, according to stats kept by The Athletic. His 64.1 completion percentage was nearly identical to his 64.5 percent mark last fall at Alabama. The 5-foot-10 Young had only two passes tipped at the line of scrimmage during team drills, by The Athletic’s count.


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While Young performed as expected, other players and position groups were pleasant surprises, and some left camp trending in the wrong direction. A Panthers stock report as the team returns to Charlotte, N.C., for the exhibition opener and the at-home phase of camp:

Stock rising

The tight ends: This position group was on the endangered list in Carolina in the years after Greg Olsen but is making a comeback under Reich, who loves the mismatches tight ends can create and has traditionally featured them prominently in the passing game. The Panthers signed Hayden Hurst to a three-year, $21.75 million contract during the offseason, and the veteran has quickly become an emotional leader for the offense, according to wide receiver Adam Thielen. “He plays with a lot of passion and energy and juice,” Thielen said.

But Hurst is not a one-man gang, nor are the tight ends one-dimensional. Thielen watched Tommy Tremble, Ian Thomas and Stephen Sullivan make a bunch of catches during OTAs while Hurst was out but has a better appreciation of the group after two-plus weeks at Wofford.

“Then you go to training camp and you see their physicality. I’m talking this whole group of tight ends,” Thielen said. “It’s not just one guy being a physical guy and one guy being the athletic guy. It’s really being a whole group of a bunch of versatile guys that can do a lot of different things that can help a football team win games.”

Edge presence: It always felt like it was a matter of when general manager Scott Fitterer signed a proven edge rusher, not if. In fact, Justin Houston said his conversations with Reich — his coach in Indianapolis — began a couple of months ago. Houston just had the good sense to wait until the end of camp to sign.

Houston’s arrival does not bode well for some of the team’s younger outside linebackers, although Yetur Gross-Matos’ ability to set the edge in the run game and slide inside in passing situations is valuable. But Ejiro Evero’s 3-4 scheme is most potent with a pair of playmakers bookending the edge spots, and the Panthers have that now in Brian Burns and Houston, who have six Pro Bowl appearances between them.

Burns said the 34-year-old Houston — whom he dubbed a “super vet” — is already making an impact before taking part in a live drill. “He’s only been here a day and he’s given me a lot of knowledge just on some things I haven’t even thought about,” Burns said Thursday. “It’s nice when you can talk rush and bounce ideas off each other.”

LB Kamu Grugier-Hill: Most fans probably couldn’t have pronounced Grugier-Hill’s name three weeks ago, if they even knew he was on the team. But the veteran special teams player became a household name at camp because he kept intercepting passes, including two against Andy Dalton, one against Young at FanFest and another against Zach Wilson to wrap up Wednesday’s joint practice with the Jets.

The Panthers arrived at Wofford wondering about their depth at inside linebacker. With the addition of Deion Jones and the emergence of Grugier-Hill, that’s no longer a concern. “He’s a guy that has made the most of every opportunity, every time we’ve been out there at practice,” Dalton said of KGH. “He’s got more interceptions than anybody on our teams throughout OTAs and camp. … He does a good job reading eyes.”

WR Jonathan Mingo: The way they’re constructed, the Panthers don’t have a true No. 1 receiver. They expect to feature different wideouts from game to game — even series to series — based on matchups and the defensive scheme. But Mingo, the second-round pick from Ole Miss, showed he’s going to be a big part of the rotation with a solid camp. The 6-2, 225-pounder saved his best for last, with four receptions during 11-on-11 drills against the Jets. Mingo’s toughness and willingness to go across the middle will be big in Reich’s offense and earned him the respect of one of the team’s veterans. “I like Mingo a lot,” Hurst said. “He’s got that dog in him.”

CBs Keith Taylor and C.J. Henderson: The backup corners started camp with several splash plays. They weren’t as noticeable during the last week at Wofford, not necessarily a bad thing given the nature of the position and their shaky performances down the stretch last year. With Donte Jackson and Jaycee Horn fully recovered from season-ending injuries in 2022, the spotlight is off Taylor and Henderson a bit. But Henderson is on the field in certain nickel packages and Taylor will be counted on over the course of a 17-game schedule as well.


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OL Nash Jensen: Want an underdog story to follow the rest of preseason? Keep an eye on Jensen, an undrafted free agent who took some first-team snaps before being slowed by a back issue in recent days. Jensen was a starting guard on two national championship-winning teams at North Dakota State, and his 70 career games are believed to be an NCAA all-divisions record. “Every single time he’s in there he’s just dominating,” right guard Austin Corbett said. “He moves well. He’s a strong kid and he’s smart. … You come from that school, too, you know he’s played in high-level games.”

Stock falling

OLB DJ Johnson: A lot of observers thought the Panthers reached when they traded up in this year’s draft to take Johnson in the third round. Johnson had impressive measurables that didn’t translate into much production at stops at Miami and Oregon, where he was a tight end for two seasons. Signing Houston could mean a de facto redshirt season for Johnson, a non-factor at Wofford who’s already an old rookie who turns 25 in October.

ILB Brandon Smith: Like Johnson, Smith’s traits — rather than his productivity at Penn State — prompted the Panthers to draft him in the fourth round in 2022. Smith played almost exclusively on special teams as a rookie. Now he’s buried on the depth chart behind Jones and Grugier-Hill and is in danger of not making the roster.

OL Brady Christensen and Cade Mays: It might be harsh to put Christensen and Mays in the “stock falling” category based on one practice, but both guards had a tough day against the Jets’ big, strong defensive line Wednesday. Mays, the second-year player from Tennessee, is of particular importance because he’s filling in for Corbett, who won’t be ready for the start of the season after ACL surgery. Backup guard Justin McCray, an offseason acquisition, has yet to push Mays for Corbett’s spot.

Chuba Hubbard (Jim Dedmon / USA Today)

Running back depth: Reich said Miles Sanders likely will sit out the first preseason game after tweaking his groin Wednesday against the Jets. That means some combination of Chuba Hubbard, Raheem Blackshear, Spencer Brown and Camerun Peoples will share backfield duties. Reich will have a regular-season package for Laviska Shenault, but the wideout was held out of the Jets’ practice with an undisclosed injury. Hubbard continued to be plagued by dropped passes at Wofford. Blackshear has burst and reliable hands but this group could use a bigger back to complement Sanders.

OLB Amaré Barno: Just as it did for Johnson, the signing of Houston bumped Barno down a rung on the edge rusher ladder. While Reich said he doesn’t put much stock in early depth charts, it can’t be a good sign for Barno that last year’s sixth-round pick is currently listed with the fourth team behind Kobe Jones, a journeyman on his fifth team in three seasons.

(Top photo of Jonathan Mingo: Jared C. Tilton / Getty Images)

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