SPARTANBURG, S.C. (AP) - The last thing Armanti Edwards was worried about as a rookie was throwing passes for the Carolina Panthers. His sole focus, he was told last season, was learning to play wide receiver and return punts, no easy task considering he played quarterback at Appalachian State.
Now that’s changed to some degree.
“It’s ironic, now I have to get used to playing quarterback again,” Edwards said.
He isn’t competing for a starting quarterback spot with Cam Newton or Jimmy Clausen, but based on what the team has done in practice offensive coordinator Rob Chudzinski plans to use him occasionally in the Wildcat formation _ with Newton split out wide.
Although the Panthers are installing an entirely new offensive scheme and are pressed for time in this NFL lockout-shortened offseason, they devoted more than 30 minutes of practice Tuesday morning to Edwards taking snaps out of the shotgun, which goes to show how serious they are about using him.
He ran. He handed off. And, of course, he threw the ball.
There was some good and some bad. He showed great quickness and completed a 65-yard touchdown pass to David Clowney that got a rise out of his teammates. He also under threw a wide open Steve Smith on another deep route and intercepted.
“I’m a little rusty,” Edwards admitted with a laugh.
Still, his comfort level in the pocket was reminiscent of what Edwards did at Appalachian State, where he was the only two-time winner of the Walter Payton Award given to the nation’s NCAA FCS Player of the Year.
“The one thing you don’t want to do is line up where everybody knows where you’re going,” Panthers coach Ron Rivera said. “You don’t want to always be throwing it to the same guy or handing it to the same guy. You also want to create different looks and stress your opponent a little bit.”
Rivera said he likes Edwards‘ elusiveness, his athletic ability and his arm strength.
But more than anything he likes the element of surprise.
“If you can put some doubt in people’s mind as to what he’s going to do, it’s going to help you offensively,” Rivera said. “Armanti can be a kind of guy that when he comes on the field it’s not always in a Wildcat situation.
“Now you don’t know how to prepare for it. One minute the quarterback is under center with Armanti (at receiver) and the next minute Armanti is there and it’s, ‘Hey is he going to run it or throw it?’ It can add to what we do offensively.”
Rivera should know.
As a former defensive coordinator Rivera was forced to prepare for similar offenses in the past.
When asked how much time it takes for a coordinator to prepare for such nuances, Rivera said, “Too much. It really does. For a team to only go one or two or three times (a game) it’s a huge distraction.”
“It’s very exciting to see they have a lot of plays they want to put in down the road depending on what team we play,” Edwards said. “This offense is going to be very exciting this year.”
The Panthers experimented with Edwards in the shotgun some last year, but only ran two plays all season. He was never a big favorite of former coach John Fox, who had a reputation for playing veteran players over rookies.
Edwards is currently fifth on the depth chart at wide receiver and second at punt returner.
He’s not listed at quarterback.
But he’ll be out there from time to time, that’s for sure.
“We had been talking about this before the lockout and after the lockout,” Edwards said. “I knew it was coming. I just didn’t know we were going to install some already during camp … They said once we get good at this we’ll do even more.”