Carolina Panthers at Baltimore Ravens Preview

In less than 12 hours, the Carolina Panthers will take the field in Baltimore, to face off against the Ravens. While preseason counts for nothing in terms of wins and losses, it does matter for the reason of seeing how teams look at different positions, and for the battles for position being fought within the teams. A win is nothing more than icing on the cake.

When: Thursday August 12, 8 p.m. ET

Where: M&T Bank Stadium; Baltimore, MD

Listings: ESPN, Sirius: 122 (CAR) 124 (BAL)

To start things off, there are 11 players for Carolina who will not be making the trip — who didn’t make the trip — to Baltimore: wide receiver Steve Smith (arm), running back Jonathan Stewart (heel), cornerback Chris Gamble (knee), right tackle Jeff Otah (knee), running back Mike Goodson (ankle), receivers Charly Martin (finger) and Trent Guy (hamstring), safety Aaron Francisco (hamstring), linebacker Jordan Senn (shoulder), tackle Garry Williams (shoulder), and linebacker Thomas Davis (ACL).

Starting in Gamble’s place is second-year corner Captain Munnerlyn.

Also expect to see some playing time for all four quarterbacks. As of last night, rookie quarterback Jimmy Clausen will be performing in tonight’s game with the second team. So much for Hunter Cantwell’s effortless leap-frogging to No. 2 on the depth chart.

So what areas and players are of interest to you in tonight’s game?

As a unit, I am very interested to see how special teams — the return game to be exact — do after some new faces were brought in to improve what wasn’t even an effort last season.

Wallace Wright has my undivided attention in tonight’s game. The New York Jets’ return game was pretty good last season with Wright, so I’m curious to see how he performs tonight, as well.

Marcus Hudson will also be on hand, and I’m quite interested in his performance, too.

Reports also indicate that former Buccaneers receiver/returner Dexter Jackson has picked up his game a lot since training camp started, so there looks to be plenty of competition in the return game.

At other positions, I am anticipating a big showing from rookie wideout Brandon LaFell, considering Dwayne Jarrett’s slide into obscurity since the start of training camp. I will still wait to see how DJ performs tonight before I affix the appropriate label to his career. Right now, it’s “bust pending.”

Since it seems Jarrett’s participation with the starting lineup may be limited, we’ll probably see him working more with Clausen and the second team’s players.

At middle and weakside linebacker, I am quite excited to see how third-year linebacker Dan Connor performs in the middle. This is where Connor excelled throughout his high school and collegiate career. Anyone who is concerned about Jon Beason needn’t be. Beason played the weakside throughout his time at “The U.” While it’s been obvious that Beason’s skill set has been best at MIKE, I’m still curious to see what Connor can contribute to the defense at his new-found starting job.

Another area to watch is at defensive end. Everette Brown, Greg Hardy, and possibly some sightings of Eric Norwood should have the defensive line hopping.

Speaking of defensive line, the defensive front — small and undersized as they are — is champing at the bit to show a little of what it’s got going into the new season. Young bucks Tank Tyler and Louis Leonard are ready to set the wheels in motion for Ron Meeks’ 4-3, Tampa-2 defensive hybrid.

Finally, and I guess I saved the best for last…How does starting quarterback Matt Moore begin the pre-season? In years past, he’s been something of an underperformer, leaving most of us scratching our heads wondering if he’d ever be a reliable starter when needed? Now is this team’s time of need. Moore fared very well to close out the 2009 campaign, but will he light it up again in preseason or will we have to wait until the road game at the Giants to confirm whether Moore is for real or a flash in the pan.

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Topics: Baltimore Ravens, Brandon LaFell, Captain Munnerlyn, Carolina Panthers, Chris Gamble, Dan Connor, Dexter Jackson, Dwayne Jarrett, Eric Norwood, Everette Brown, Greg Hardy, Hunter Cantwell, Jeff Otah, Jimmy Clausen, Jon Beason, Jonathan Stewart, Louis Leonard, Marcus Hudson, Matt Moore, NFL, Preseason Week One, Steve Smith, Tank Tyler, Thomas Davis, Wallace Wright

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