5 Panthers players who need to shine at Colts in preseason Week 1

(Jim Dedmon-USA TODAY Sports) Sam Darnold
(Jim Dedmon-USA TODAY Sports) Sam Darnold /
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Carolina Panthers
(Jim Dedmon-USA TODAY Sports) Sam Darnold /

Which Carolina Panthers players need to stand out during their first preseason game at the Indianapolis Colts ahead of the 2021 campaign?

The time has almost come for the Carolina Panthers to make their long-awaited return to the gridiron. Sunday’s first preseason game at the Indianapolis Colts promises to be a fascinating occasion after so many changes to the roster this offseason, with those in power leaving no stone unturned in pursuit of getting the team back to prominence at the earliest possible opportunity.

Head coach Matt Rhule doesn’t have as much leeway this time around. The Panthers are getting a more structured preparation period and last season’s experience will also serve them well in pursuit of progression.

Indianapolis will be without quarterback Carson Wentz and All-Pro guard Quenton Nelson for the warmup game, with both expected to miss the early stages of the regular season with reportedly the same exact injury.

That will be of no consequence to those on the Panthers who are looking to stake a claim before final cuts are made. Here are five players who need to stand out at the Colts in preseason Week 1.

Player No. 1

Carolina Panthers
(Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports) Ian Thomas /

Ian Thomas – Carolina Panthers TE

The Panthers have given Ian Thomas a reprieve in the hope he can bounce back from a disappointing 2020 campaign. This has brought a positive response from the player during camp so far, but what he displayed on the field will be of critical importance before competitive action begins.

It appears as if Dan Arnold is the new primary tight end target in Carolina. The free-agent signing from the Arizona Cardinals has developed a strong rapport with Sam Darnold – especially in the red zone – so Thomas will be implemented in a secondary role as a result.

Thomas has to be better and his future with the Panthers could come down to whether the Indiana product makes the most of whatever targets come his way in the preseason.