CHARLOTTE — The Panthers were looking for something different in the secondary this offseason.
And the difference was noticeable, immediately so.
Even though players are still in shorts and shells on the first day of rookie minicamp, cornerback Jaycee Horn cuts a different figure than any corner they’ve had around here in years.
His mix of speed and size (he’s listed at 6-1, 200 pounds) is rare, which is why you have to spend top-10 picks on guys like him.
He’s more solid in the upper body than a Chris Gamble. He’s longer than a Ken Lucas or an Eric Davis. He’s more defined than a Josh Norman.
Of course, Horn still has to play, but the first impression the first-round pick made was striking.
Head coach Matt Rhule talked about Horn’s physical style during the draft, and said Friday the addition of Horn and 6-foot-3 fifth-round cornerback Keith Taylor could add an element to the defense they were missing.
“Obviously, that length helps you play the deep ball,” Rhule said. “(Horn has) 33-inch arms, he can win at the line of scrimmage. He can win on the 50-50 ball, he can reach in and break up passes. And he’s a physical player at that size, so he can support the run. You think of cornerbacks in the NFL as being cover guys, but most offenses are designed to block everyone else and make the corner make the tackle.
“He’s going to bring a sense of physicality. When you look across the field at Taylor, he’s the same thing. We have two big, long, fast, athletic guys that we have to train in our system and see where they get to.”
Again, there’s a long road ahead of all the rookies, but on the first day of practice, Horn looked the part.