Third year WR Curtis Samuel looks the part. There has always been tremendous potential in the Ohio State product’s game, potential that seems to be transitioning into a reality for 2019. Samuel has been near perfect this weekend. Much sharper route running is my first observation. Cleaner off the line, not finding himself off track from any DB press/jams on the line. If he’s dropped a pass, I haven’t seen it. What I have seen is a pair dominant routes with elite separation, both of which went for touchdowns. His RAC game is borderline-elite and he remains a threat as a quasi-back on jet sweeps and reverse/end around plays. This newfound downfield utilization (as displayed in Week 17 at New Orleans last season) is great to see.
Rookie EDGE rusher Brian Burns has wowed campers (and even a few verbal teammates) with his quickness around the corner on the pass rush. Now, look, I get it. It’s day three of a rookie’s first camp. There’s always a tendency to overreact and/or overhype. Many, in a corresponding move, are in a panic over rookie LT Greg Little having some early issues controlling Burns. Let’s say this: Burns is beating Little fairly regularly. He should. I’d be concerned if my first round speed rusher was getting his ass handed to him by an inexperienced player at a tricky position to learn. Burns is fast. He has a bend to his rush–reminds me (relax) a bit of former Colts DE Dwight Freeney. The ability to get low, skinny and turnstile a tackle is aesthetically impressive. My rule for both men: give it a week. Let’s see how Burns looks on day 6, 7, 8 of practice. Likewise for Little, as he has a ton to learn in one of the leading “misdirection/moving parts” offensive schemes in the league.
Cam Newton, and “that arm”. Well, he got a good day off on Saturday, tossing light throws alone for half the session on an empty field. Opening night, my observation of the arm was, like many, generally positive. On a post corner to TE Chris Manherz, and on a deep post to Samuel, the ball traveled with premium spin and accuracy, and this observer believes there’s more height on these throws than in the past. It’s early, so who knows. It’s just an observation. What I want to see is how the right wing looks in tight windows. Scenario: 3rd and goal, 7YL. Newton typically whistles a fastball into that tight window, just past the ear of a zone LB. Quick slants, typically. I want to see velocity + accuracy in this situation, or similar ones. The deep ball is vital, and it’s an attention grabber considering the struggles he had in camp last year delivering anything over 30 yards with accuracy. The intermediate zip needs to be there. Haven’t seen him display it much yet, likely by design.
Gerald McCoy: Man of the People. I always work hard to pay close attention to chemistry and behavioral elements with first-year players in a system. Are they involved? Communicative? Are they detached? Aloof? Sometimes, there’s nothing to observe. In the case of McCoy, I spent some quality time just a few feet from the perennial All-Pro DT following his first practice on Thursday night. Here’s what he did: carried a few helmets a good 50+ yards in my direction. I’m thinking, “the hell is this…veteran pro-bowler hazing?” Nope, voluntary. He wanted to do it. Why? Who cares? It’s a tremendous show of class. McCoy then proceeds to move some of the training equipment 20 yards onto the field of play, and goes to on do about 20 minutes of individual pass rush drills–alone–deep into the night. Newton is circling the field with his entourage rifling off his John Hancock, and there’s McCoy, grinding away like an undrafted rookie. How has he looked on the field? Too hard to tell, as he’s spending most of his reps in a new role: 5-technique DE in a 34 defense. But he’s oozing with intangibles, leading by example while working closely with his young mates on the line. It feels right. Probably because it is right.