Well, here we are. Thursday brings the third game of the preseason for the Panthers, otherwise known as the only one that matters. They will face off against the Jaguars for the right to be crowned king of the big cats*, otherwise known as the king of the 1995 graduating class. We should see as much effort as we’ve seen so far. A bit more playing time from the starters, some more thoughtful play calling.
Let’s start with the big news: Cam Newton will start game 3. Coming off of his shoulder surgery, it will be a telling outing. There should be some rust to shake off. Even though he has amped up his practice work load steadily, it’s still his first set of in-game snaps in quite some time. Don’t expect him to play too long, though.
We should, hopefully, see Cam mesh with the offense a bit. That should include the offensive line, behind which Newton will finally play. I expect at least one drive with points, otherwise I’ll come away disappointed.
Obligatory McCaffrey mention: I’m excited to see if these two have built chemistry and timing. They’re going to be a force this year, if you ask me.
I also want to see how Russell Shepard continues to improve with Cam throwing to him.
In other offensive news, WR Brenton Bersin is out with a shoulder injury.
Also: Keep an eye on G Andrew Norwell. He plays the kind of physical game Rivera wants, and Cam Newton needs.
To take just a little bit of pressure off the defense, Jacksonville shuffled their starting QB. Chad Henne will start against Carolina, leading plenty of opportunity for the defensive backfield to make plays against a guy with few first team reps. I’ll be watching this matchup closely, as I want to see those DBs improve. Against plenty of young WRs, I want them to make their presence felt.
The opposition to McCaffrey’s rookie RB crown (there he is again) is Leonard Fournette, and how the defense keys in on him will be another good matchup to watch. Yeldon and Ivory are also formidable runners, so key in on their run stopping ability all game.
*Fun fact: All jaguars are panthers, but not all panthers are jaguars. I think that makes panthers inherently superior.