It's the most action the first teams will get in preseason in this week 3 match up against a familiar AFC rival in the New England Patriots. Here's what to watch for in a game where will get as close to regular season action as it gets before week one.
Wide Receivers-Corey Brown
Corey Brown had an absolute dismal performance last week against the Dolphins dropping 3 perfectly put passes from Cam Newton, one of which was in the end zone. Corey has had a great off season and really impressed the coaching staff after gaining 10 pounds, working on his route running, and supposedly getting even faster. I expect Corey to have a solid bounce back game tonight against the Pats, he's too competitive to let a couple drops keep him down. Not to mention having him as another dependable deep threat is big with Benjamin being out.
We expect to see Devin Funchess back in his first action since Kelvin Benjamin went down as he looks to become Cam Newton's new number one receiver. Rivera had said they will start preparing Funchess more for the X role at receiver, so we will be watching to see how he does with getting jammed at the line and if he can get the needed release with his physicality and speed.
Boykin and Ginn should be kept an eye on as well, Boykin has been playing well this preseason and Ginn has been Newtons favorite deep threat during camp, and they've had plenty of connections.
Defensive Line- Kony Ealy
In the wake of losing predicted DE starter Frank Alexander against the Dolphins, a lot of eyes will be on Kony Ealy and whether or not he can get consistent pressure opposite Charles Johnson. Ealy started off strong against Miami last week with a strip sack on the first drive. The biggest thing Rivera has stated on Ealy throughout training camp was for him to get more consistent. We hope to see some of that consistency get started tonight.
Cam Newton has never lit it up in the preseason since entering the NFL, so I try not to make too much of his performances during this time. However, tonight it would be good to see the offense get off to a strong, fast start as Newton has said himself multiple times. I have been saying I believe the best way to get Cam going is to come out the first drive with a no huddle approach to get him in rhythm and get his confidence going. Cam has proven to be unstoppable when he has done these things and his confidence gets going.
The biggest help Cam can get is for the running game to get going and open things up for him by drawing in the defense. With Jonathan Stewart set to get the bulk of his preseason reps tonight behind what is already a better line than last year, it would be disappointing to see the ground game struggle again. I also expect to see Cameron Artis-Payne get plenty of reps with the first team tonight after impressive showings the first two games. Maybe we will see some more of that "Wegher did he go?" magic from Brandon Wegher late in the game as well.
Fozzy Whitaker and Mike Tolbert both should be looking to play all out in this game with their reps in my opinion. The young guys have put a lot of pressure on the coaching staff on who to keep. Lee Ward is a run paving machine, giving more of a Panther great Brad Hoover feel that this team could really use in the ground game. Fozzy Whitaker has been non existent and at this point I don't see him making the final 53.
Shaq Thompson wasted no time last week showing why the Panthers drafted him with their first round pick. At one point he had a player covered nearly 40 yards downfield. With it being the teams dress rehearsal for the regular season, we will be watching and hoping to see some more special plays from the first round pick alongside Kuechly and Thomas Davis. If he plays up to his selection, it could be another bigger year for this line backer corps, which is already the best in the NFL in a lot of peoples eyes.
I debated whether or not to put this in here or not this time as they have done a great job up to this point, but the superstition in me says lets keep this rolling. Not to mention, in this case anyway, you can't have to much a good thing right? But another reason is center Ryan Kalil will be sitting the rest of this preseason with a knee injury as a precaution. Let's see who looks to step up and tries to solidify themselves as a backup center between Foulcalts and Remmers.
By "This Guy Don't Be Trippin" Morgan, aka Tripp Morgan
Follow him on Twitter @TrippMorgan6