The Panthers will open up their 2011 preseason schedule Saturday night in Bank of America Stadium as they take on the New York Giants. The Panthers will have several storylines to follow throughout the year, but let’s look at five of them to consider for tomorrow night’s game.
1. QB Battle- Second year quarterback, Jimmy Clausen has been named the starter for tomorrow’s game, but even Ron Rivera has said he is not ready to name a starter for the regular season at this time. It will be very interesting to see which quarterback plays the best tomorrow night and how their performance could impact Rivera’s decision for the opening game of the regular season. It is widely considered a fact that the main competition is between Clausen and Cam Newton, but it will be interesting to see how veteran Derek Anderson does as well. I would expect all three quarterbacks to see significant snaps.
2. The Defensive Scheme- New Carolina Defensive Coordinator, Sean McDermott is widely regarded as having a very high football IQ and Panthers Head Coach, Ron Rivera has a notorious reputation as being a great defensive mind himself. It will be interesting to see how these two minds work together and what system it produces. I would expect to see a lot more blitzing this year and an overall more aggressive defensive scheme. All parts of the Panthers defense will be tested tomorrow night as the Giants have weapons in both the passing game and running attack.
3. The Health of the Panthers- Can the Panthers escape tomorrow night’s game without suffering anymore significant injuries? The Panthers have already lost a top three receiver on the team, David Gettis, a run-stuffing defensive tackle in Ron Edwards, and a two-deep offensive lineman in Zack Williams. All three players have been lost for the year so the Panthers cannot afford anymore injuries. Still, I can see the young and hungry Panthers put their injury worries aside and still be aggressive on both sides of the ball.
4. The Defensive Line Play- The defensive line was arguably the biggest need the Carolina Panthers had entering the off-season and it seems some of those concerns still exist. A unique story to watch will be Corey Irvin, an original draft selection of the Panthers in 2009 who was later released after suffering a knee injury. The Panthers have subsequently re-signed Irvin and according to reports he will be starting tomorrow night. The defensive line has other questions such as: How will the rookie pair of tackles play? Will Charles Johnson remain dominant? Who will step up at the other defensive end position? Is it time to call Everette Brown a bust? The performance of the Panthers defensive line tomorrow night may determine if another player is signed to help bolster the overall talent of the line.
5. Armanti Edwards- People have been absolutely raving about the former Appalachian State quarterback turned Panther receiver. Edwards was put in former Carolina Head Coach, John Fox’s doghouse all last season for nothing more than being an unusual talent that would have to be used in creative ways. It’s safe to say that new Panthers Offensive Coordinator, Rob Chudzinski has an all-around more creative mind than anyone on Fox’s staff and he will find a way to bring Edwards’ talent to the forefront. Whether Edwards is used in the return game, in the slot, or as a Wildcat option quarterback, I would expect Edwards to see a significant amount of time and touches throughout the preseason.