Observations and opinions from Panthers training camp in Spartanburg, S.C.:
Jake Delhomme and Julius Peppers had been the faces of the team, but it was time to move on without them. The moves pave the way for youngsters such as quarterback Matt Moore and linebacker Jon Beason to take full charge of the team.
The Panthers’ base philosophy of running to set up the pass and stopping the run won’t change. Both Moore and Beason are in their roles because they know what they need to do to help the team win.
The main quarterback competition for second-round pick Jimmy Clausen isn’t with Moore, but rather with fellow rookie Tony Pike and Hunter Cantwell. A successful camp for Clausen would be ending up as the No. 2 quarterback, an injury to Moore away from playing.
"You go out each and every day to get yourself ready because you never know when you’ll go in," Clausen said.
Left tackle Jordan Gross, coming off a broken lower left leg last November, enjoyed being in pads and passed the "gut check" to begin camp. After breaking his arm in June, Steve Smith is on track for the season opener. Right tackle Jeff Otah, another key player who ended last season on I.R., isn’t quite ready to practice on his comeback from knee surgery.
Rookie on the spot
Outside linebacker/defensive end Eric Norwood, a fourth-round pick out of South Carolina, has much to grasp in camp because he will be needed to boost the team’s sack total sans Peppers. "He can be a designated pass rusher as well as an every-down linebacker," coach John Fox said.
The Panthers have a roller-coaster history under Fox. Either injuries or inconsistency push them out of the playoffs, like last season, or everything falls in place around their strong running game and defense to get them to postseason. The team looks .500 on paper with the potential to exceed expectations.
Vinnie Iyer is a staff writer for Sporting News. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.