CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- As the Carolina Panthers face the Buffalo Bills in the preseason opener for both teams, here are a couple of items of interest to be on the lookout for on Thursday night.
Kelvin Benjamin vs. the Panthers defense
Linebacker Shaq Thompson said all the right things when asked about facing his former teammate, and while I believe him, when he says he won't intentionally try to hurt Benjamin (or anyone), he won't hold back on delivering a clean blow. I'd be surprised if any of Benjamin's former teammates went easy on him after the receiver lit up the organization, and more specifically QB Cam Newton, in an interview last weekend.
Hoo boy. When training camp began, the Panthers had a pretty good idea of what their starting front five would look like. Matt Kalil at left tackle, Amini Silatolu the leader at left guard, Ryan Kalil at center, Trai Turner and right guard and Darryl Williams at left tackle.
Williams and Silatolu are dinged with injuries, meaning Brendan Mahon will figure to start at the left guard position and Taylor Moton at the right tackle. If ever the Carolina depth was going to be tested, it will be in week1 of the preseason, and every week afterwards.
James Bradberry will start at the left corner post and Kevon Seymour is listed as the starter on the right side, per the team's depth chart. The RCB job is still up for grabs, however. Seymour has had a good camp, but so too, has rookie Donte Jackson and 4-year man Lorenzo Doss. The secondary, as a group, has had a good camp in Spartanburg and starting jobs are still a ways off from being decided.
From my seat, Garrett Gilbert is the number 2 QB, and it's his job to lose. He has had the most time in the organization and has a pretty big arm. Taylor Heinicke is battling Gilbert for the backup gig, with Kyle Allen in the mix as well. Head Coach Ron Rivera says his hope is Newton gets an 8-10 play drive. That would be enough for Rivera to see, and then get Gilbert and Heinicke as many reps as possible. This is a competition that will likely go down to the wire, but for me, right now, Gilbert is the guy.