Rashaan Gaulden was probably Tennessee’s best player not named Trey Smith in 2017. The do-it-all defensive back specialized in a nickel role, staying active at the line of scrimmage and bringing some physicality to a group that desperately needed it. Gaulden opted to leave the Tennessee program early for the 2018 NFL Draft, where he was selected in the third round by the Carolina Panthers.
Unsurprisingly, Gaulden is already making an impact. The rookie is working at safety and already getting some first-team looks with the Panthers.
Donte Jackson and Rashaan Gaulden running with the ones again during a team period.— Jourdan Rodrigue (@JourdanRodrigue) July 29, 2018
And, well — he’s making and impact in more ways than one. Here’s Gaulden (28) delivering a blow to Jarius Wright during today’s practice session.
The hit wasn’t well-received by his teammates, particularly the team’s No. 1 wide receiver Devin Funchess. Panthers’ coach Ron Rivera took Gaulden to the side and reminded him of the NFL’s helmet-to-helmet contact rule.
Carolina Panthers rookie safety Rashaan Gaulden got a talk from coach Ron Rivera and teammates after a violent helmet to head collision with wide receiver Jarius Wright in the back of the end zone on Monday. Rivera wanted to remind Gaulden how under the NFL's new rule on...— David Newton (@DNewtonespn) July 30, 2018
Wright ended up being fine and returned to action after missing a few snaps. For Gaulden, it was a rookie move and likely a learning experience. That physicality isn’t leaving his game anytime soon, but he’ll have to choose his spots wisely now in the NFL.