Carolina Panthers just completed Preseason Game 1. The Panthers were up to their Cardiac Cat ways, losing late on a Joe Webb pick. Here’s what to look for moving forward.
Cam Newton didn’t start: Newton, still recovering from offseason ankle surgery, was held out of the first game of the preseason. While it is important that he develop a chemistry with his brand new Wide Receivers corps, it is essential that he doesn’t suffer a setback in his rehab process. Despite the fact that he wasn’t playing on the field, he was active in talking and communicating with his replacement for the night, Derek Anderson.
Derek Anderson: Anderson provided the first touchdown of the game on a beautiful completion to Kelvin Benjamin. Anderson extended drives with his legs (Cam who?) and looked accurate after his first series. Nobody wants to see DA during the regular season, but it sets a fan’s mind at ease that the team has a quality, competent backup at the quarterback position. With Newton already on the mend, and with a position battle going on to protect his blindside, a backup QB may be a necessity.
Kelvin Benjamin: The knock on Benjamin coming out of FSU was that despite his physical tools, he had a penchant of dropping the ball. In camp he has been fantastic, and he produced the “wow” play of the game with this touchdown catch.
Kenjon Barner: He won’t start, but with Jonathan Stewart on and off the injured list, the backup running back position is important. Barner was brought in from Oregon as a scatback. He didn’t see the field much in 2013-2014 season, but he gives a different look than DeAngelo Williams and Mike Tolbert. He’s added weight to keep up in the NFL, but it looked like the added weight took away from his electric quickness. His preseason role and performance will be something to keep an eye on.
Byron Bell started at the Left Tackle position. He and Nate Chandler have been competing to see who would win the honor of protecting their QB’s blindside. The team was left bereft of experience at the position once stalwart Jordan Gross retired. Bell was beaten bad early by an inside swim move, but settled down as the game wore on.
Matt Blanchard and Joe Webb: The 3rd string QB position battle is only interesting because of Webb’s past. While Webb is no longer starting, he looked better than Blanchard. He completed a long pass in the 3rd Quarter (called back due to holding) and scrambled for a first down in the same period. Webb’s athleticism was never in question, only his accuracy. Still, having backups that are athletically close to Cam is a rarity, and watching him outplay Blanchard means he may take the last QB spot.