Three things to watch for in Carolina’s preseason opener against the New York Giants on Saturday. Kickoff is set for 8 p.m. ET.
Cam Newton vs. Jimmy Clausen. These two young quarterbacks are competing for the starting job. All indications are Clausen, a second-round pick a year ago, isn’t going down without a good fight. He’s had a good camp and will get the start against the Giants. But Clausen’s time at the top of the depth chart might be short. The Panthers used the No. 1 overall draft pick on Newton and he’s shown some early signs he can be special. This will be Newton’s first live test against another team. If he can show he’s grasping the offense and not make a lot of mistakes, he could move closer to securing the starting job.
The wide receivers. David Gettis has been lost for the season with a knee injury and Steve Smith will miss at least this game with an injured finger. Smith should be back soon and he’ll be the No. 1 receiver. But the Panthers have to figure out who the other starter will be and who will be the third receiver -- a role that will actually matter in Carolina’s new offense. The Panthers brought in veteran Legedu Naanee and he’s a known commodity to offensive coordinator Rob Chudzinski from their time together in San Diego. Naanee is a candidate to be one of the top three receivers. But this game is more of an opportunity for second-year pros Brandon LaFell and Armanti Edwards to step forward and enter the mix for a starting job. LaFell got mixed reviews as a rookie, but the front office thinks he has a lot of potential. Edwards wasn’t allowed to do much as a rookie because former coach John Fox never wanted to draft him. Edwards will get his chance this year.
Ron Rivera and his coaching staff. His reputation as an assistant was stellar, and hiring Chudzinski to run the offense and Sean McDermott as defensive coordinator earned Rivera praise from around the league. But what’s Rivera going to be like as a head coach and what are his offensive and defensive schemes going to look like? We’ll start finding out tonight.