Panthers View Edwards Paying Early Dividends

One of the big storylines for the Panthers will be third-round draft pick Armanti Edwards' attempt to make the transition from FCS quarterback at Appalachian State to wide receiver and return specialist at the NFL level.

The Panthers are banking that he can and, as general manager Marty Hurney put it, the team had a strong opinion after meeting Edwards that he could handle it.

That's why they gave up a second-round pick in the 2011 NFL Draft to get him in the bottom of the third round.

It's a big step. But Panthers new wide receivers coach Tyke Tolbert views Edwards' lack of experience as a positive rather than a negative.

"He comes here and he has no bad habits," said Tolbert. "The stuff that I'm teaching him, well, it's his first time learning it so that's a good thing."

Although most receivers come into the league having to learn one position, the Panthers have Edwards lining up at all three wide receiver positions, along with learning how to return punts and kickoffs. Eventually, the team will put in a package where he can play some quarterback in Wildcat-type formations.

"The head is spinning a little bit but that's a good thing," Tolbert said of Edwards. "We would rather have him spinning now than in the fall. ... He's a fish out of water like all of the rookies are. All of those guys are flopping around kind of trying to feel their way through the NFL game and feel out the tempo of how we want things done."

There have been ups and downs for Edwards so far.

He's run a few incorrect routes, but for the most part seems to be doing well.

During minicamp he was running a one-on-one drill against one of the team's young cornerbacks and cut inside on a slant and reached behind his back to snare a pass from rookie Tony Pike with his left hand and barely broke his stride as he headed up the field.

"His hands are great," Tolbert said of the 5-foot-10, 182-pound Edwards. "If you think about it, most quarterbacks are good athletes and have good hands because they touch the ball on every play. He has really good hands. His route technique is getting better, but he has no bad habits and what I'm teaching him he's learning for the first time. He's getting it. He's definitely getting it."

The catch-and-run is the type of big-play ability the Panthers expect from Edwards.

"We know he's a playmaker and he has a lot of talent but he has to put that into a quarterback's body instead of a wide receiver's body," Tolbert said.

In giving up such a high draft pick next year the Panthers put a lot of pressure on Edwards to succeed. But obviously they feel strongly about him being able to make the switch from being a two-time National Player of the Year at quarterback for Division 1-AA Appalachian State to full-time wide receiver and return man in the NFL.

Wide receiver Steve Smith said making the transition "might not be as hard as some people think," but that the bigger adjustment might be moving from a spread offense in college to a more traditional set with the Panthers.

"The quarterback has the responsibility to know where everybody is on the field," Smith said. "... He doesn't have as many tasks as a receiver. I think he'll do pretty good."

NOTES, QUOTES


WR Dwayne Jarrett
Getty
--Wide receiver Dwayne Jarrett parted ways with his agent and hired Drew Rosenhaus to represent him, immediately raising speculation he might want to be traded. But if Jarrett does want out of Carolina he isn't saying so.

"I'm here right now and I love being in Carolina, so this is where I'm at," Jarrett said during a break in minicamp. "That's all that's on my mind right now, coming out here and helping the team anyway I can. I really can't think about not being here or being traded or going to another team. My main focus is to be the best I can be."

Jarrett opened minicamp as the No. 2 receiver opposite Steve Smith, but there's also the reality he might not be here come September after the Panthers drafted three receivers -- Brandon LaFell and Armanti Edwards in the third round and David Gettis in the sixth.

"It's part of the game," Jarrett said. "You have to keep drafting good players to get to the Super Bowl. I'm all for it. It's all about competing so when you walk in there on Sunday it's like a cakewalk."

Jarrett's NFL career has been anything but a cakewalk.

In three seasons, the former second-round draft pick has started only three games and caught 33 passes for 338 yards and one touchdown. He made the most news when was arrested on a DUI charge shortly after his 21st birthday.

If there's some good news for Jarrett it's that he has a low base salary in 2010, meaning the Panthers aren't going to save much money, if any, by cutting him.

Jarrett said despite the presence of LaFell, Edwards and Gettis, he feels like he'll be given a fair shot to win the No. 2 receiver spot opposite Smith.

"Yeah, I have been here for three years and I know the ins and outs of the playbook," he said. "I'm a vet, so I have to play like a vet. I hold myself at high standards and I know the coaches do. All I have to do is keep working hard and try to help Smitty (Steve Smith) out on the other side."

--Matt Moore said he's not worried that the Panthers drafted quarterbacks Jimmy Clausen and Tony Pike.

"I've been in nearly every possible situation since I've been here. I'm not concerned," Moore said. "Everything is going to come to down performing on the field. Minicamp, we come out here and execute and show we can move the ball like always. Every guy's got to do that and we'll go from there."

Moore said he hadn't met Clausen prior to last weekend and he doesn't know much about him.

"I've seen highlights on ESPN like everybody else, but I haven't sat down and watched a Notre Dame game," Moore said. "I know the kid can play. He wouldn't have started three years or four years or whatever he did at Notre Dame and not be able to play. Quality guy, we'll see and we'll learn more about him as the weekend goes on."

--Owner Jerry Richardson took in the most recent minicamp from his golf cart where he watched alongside former Panther Mike Rucker.

Rucker was one of several Panther alumni invited to a luncheon Friday by team president Danny Morrison. Among some of the others to take in practice were Tshimanga Biakabutuka, Steve Beuerlein, Wesley Walls, Dwight Stone, Jeff Mitchell, Matt Willig and Kevin Donnalley.

In fact, Donnalley, at the request of coach John Fox, was invited to speak to the team. Donnalley talked about being an undrafted free agent who played 13 years in the league and some of the smart things and some of the dumb things he did in the league. But as for his extended career he told players, "If that's what you want, then go get it."

--Veteran wide receiver Steve Smith is normally cautious before handing out praise, but he said he likes the speed of this young receiving corps.

"We have some pretty good speed," Smith said. "As far as the wide receivers as a whole and all of the new guys, they're pretty quick. I'm not going to say these guys aren't fast. As a whole, these new guys coming here they can burn a little bit, so that's good."

QUOTE TO NOTE: "I expect to come in and have an impact (right away). You have to have that mindset even if you're not on the field. If I have that mindset that means I can work my hardest out here." -- Panthers WR Armanti Edwards.

STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL

Look for rookie Eric Norwood, the team's fourth-round draft pick out of South Carolina, to push Dan Connor for the team's starting strong-side linebacker spot. Norwood looked that good during minicamp.


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