After defensive tackle Maake Kemoeatu went down with a torn Achilles' tendon yesterday, the Panthers methodically started making changes in the most likely event that Kemo is unable to return for the season.
The optimistically good news is, Maake will undergo surgery to repair his torn tendon tomorrow, and there is a very slim, outside chance that he could be ready to go at some point late in the season, but by that time the Panthers most likely will have long placed him on the IR list.
The disappointing thing about this, is the Panthers lack depth at the defensive tackle and offensive lineman positions, two crucially important areas on a football team.
Today undrafted rookie Marlon Favorite out of LSU, filled in at the nose tackle position usually occupied by Keamoeatu.
Dan Connor also filled in for MLB Jon Beason, who is still nursing a tight hamstring suffered Monday. As for Connor, so far so good. He seems to have picked up where he left off last season, after injuring his knee.
Rookie corner Sherrod Martin made a solid hit on tight end Jeff King, when he lowered his shoulder and knocked him out of bounds. King praised Martin, patting him on the helmet.
Later in the practice, defensive coordinator Ron Meeks started to change the defensive alignment to a Nickel package, where Tyler Brayton moved to the defensive tackle position with rookie Everette Brown sliding out to left defensive end, while linebacker Na'il Diggs (for formation reasons) came off the field.
Brayton can push the pocket from the inside, while Brown gives the team a solid pass rusher coming off the outside. Corvey Irvin will also be used as an inside rusher.
Cornerback C.J. Wilson is currently in place as the team's nickel back, ahead of rookie second-round pick Sherrod Martin.
About mid-practice, rookie outside guard Duke Robinson took a leave, with what was believed to be a heat related illness. He was carted off the field and given fluids. He should be fine.
Undrafted rookie outside guard C.J. Davis suffered an ankle injury during two-on-two blocking drills. Another lineman slipped and Davis' body was pushed back over the top by rookie DT Corvey Irvin. So far, no updates have been given on Davis' status.
Running back Jonathan Stewart still has soreness in his leg from a sore Achilles. As of right now, he will remain on one-a-day practices, but during the practices he's participated in, shows good speed.
"We'll do whatever is necessary medically with him. We don't want to wear him out and yet we still want to get him his reps and get him football ready. At this point right now, we're going one-a-day with him and we'll see how it goes,” coach John Fox said.
So far defensive coordinator Ron Meeks has been very hands-on with the defense, and does not shy away from jumping in to correct a player when he has made a mis-step.
"That’s part of me. I'm not going to change who I am. I think football is never going to change. It's not something I invented. I always thought that is the way the game is played. And the game has been played that way for years. You block, tackle and make plays; that’s the name of the game. The bottom line is you've got to win. And the way you win is you set a tone, an atmosphere with the players. You have fun with it but you have to get the job done. It all works hand in hand and we have to do it together," Meeks said.
The Panthers resume practice tomorrow at 9:10 a.m. and again at 3:10 p.m. I will follow up the day around this time tomorrow evening.
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