Inside The Carolina Panthers


Bills vs. Panthers

It looks to be a defensive clash as the Panthers open the preseason hosting Buffalo Friday night. The Panthers finished last season ranked 2nd in the NFL in total defense, while the Bills ranked 10th overall and 4th against the pass. The Bills already have a game under their belt this preseason, they lost to the Giants 17-13 in the Hall of Fame game Sunday. Head coach Ron Rivera is looking forward to the matchup.  “You know, we’ve got three positions that we really have to find out about.  So I’m hoping that we get a good dose of their good pass rushers, their wide receivers and their defensive backs. “ 

The Panthers will have their work cut out for them against a young but explosive Bills offense.  The Bills boast one of the best running attacks in the league, averaging 144 yards a game last season that was 2nd in the NFLF.  Former Clemson standout C-J Spiller and veteran Fred Jackson combined for over 1800 yards and 13 touchdowns.  They’ll face a challenge from this Panthers defense which ranked 2nd in the league against the run, giving up just under 87 yards a contest.   2nd year quarterback E-J Manuel directs the offense, but we’ll likely see a great deal of Jeff Tuel and former Duke standout Thad Lewis as they battle for the backup job.  I’ll be watching for Bills rookie Sammy Watkins, who was a record setting receiver at Clemson.  He didn’t have a catch against the Giants, so the Bills will no doubt try to get him involved early tonight.  This is a preseason game, though, so we’ll see lots of 2nd and 3rd string guys just trying to make the team, including former Wolfpacker T-J Graham.  The Panthers revamped secondary will be missing safety Roman Harper, who’s out with a toe injury, while former safety Charles Godfrey makes his debut at cornerback.  Godfrey is also returning from an Achilles injury,  and says he can’t wait for game time.  “I can’t even begin to tell you how excited I am just to run out on the field.”

The Bills have a new defensive coordinator in former Lions Head Coach Jim Schwartz, and he’s got plenty of talent on his side of the ball.  The Bills defensive line is outstanding, featuring three Pro Bowlers in Kyle Williams, Marcell Dareus and Mario Williams, who posted 13 sacks last season, 4-1/2 of those coming against Cam Newton and the Panthers.  They’ll no doubt pose a huge challenge for the Panthers new-look offensive line.   The Bills secondary has been dinged up this preseason and superstar safety Jairus Byrd left for New Orleans, so look for a lot of young players to be in the mix tonight, including former Tar Heel Da-Norris Searcy and former Duke standout Russ Cockrell.  Of course the Panthers have a new cast of receivers, so it will be interesting to see how they do tonight, especially rookie Kelvin Benjamin – he’s been outstanding in training camp.

These two teams met in game two last season, with the Bills getting the last minute 24-23 win.  Does that give the Panthers a little extra incentive tonight?  Probably not, but they’re no doubt ready for the matchup.  After two weeks of training camp, defensive tackle Dwan Edwards says they’re ready to hit someone else!  It’s always good to go up against someone else, gets a little monotonous going against your teammates and the same people every day.  They’re a good team, obviously they ended up beating us last year in Buffalo.  So it will be a good test for us.”

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Sharon Thorsland's Pre-Game Preview:

  • Here We Go Again

    It's deja vu for the Panthers, who for the second time this season will take on Tampa Bay without their starting quarterback.  The Panthers welcome the Bucs to Bank of America Stadium Sunday in what has become a key NFC South matchup.  Last week's win over New Orleans vaulted the Panthers back into the mix for the division title, while the Bucs fell to 2-11 on the year after a 34-17 loss to the Lions last week.  “Carolina really looked good, looked like the defending champ,” says Bucs coach Lovie Smith.  “Not the team that had lost seven in a row, or whatever.  To go down to New Orleans like that and win, is saying quite a bit.”

    The Panthers played well in their first matchup with the Bucs this season, with Derek Anderson running the offense.  That will be the case again today as Cam Newton recovers from injuries suffered in a car crash this week, and teammates are confident in the 10-year veteran.  “He’s a proven quarterback, he knows how to get the job done,” says fullback Mike Tolbert.  “He’s been here before and he can do it again.”

    Anderson and the Panthers will face a Bucs defense that has improved since their first matchup but still ranks near the bottom of the league in most categories.  Starting defensive end Adrian Clayborne and starting cornerback Mike Jenkins are both on IR and the Bucs also traded away safety Mark Barron and linebacker Jonathan Casillas.  But they've still got All-Pro defensive tackle Gerald McCoy.  He anchors the front line and leads the team with 8.5 sacks.  Former Bill Jacquies Smith teams with Michael Johnson at defensive end, they've combined for 9 sacks on the season.  The linebackers feature All-Pro Lavonte David; he leads the Bucs and is 3rd in the NFL in tackles.  Danny Lansanah has been outstanding, he's 2nd on the team in tackles and has three picks, 2 of those returned for touchdowns.  Mason Foster starts at middle linebacker.  The Panthers boast the league's 11th ranked rushing attack averaging 116 yards per game, but offensive lineman Byron Bell says they'll be tested today.  “They’ve been in a lot of their games,” says Bell.  “They’ve got a nice little defensive line, they got Johnson coming in from Cincinnati, they’ve got some solid linebackers, they’ve got a nice little defensive back corps.  They do a lot.”

    Pro Bowler Alterraun Verner teams with 2nd year player Jonathan Banks at cornerback - Banks leads the team and is 5th in the NFL with 4 interceptions, one of those a pick six.  Pro Bowl safety Dashon Goldson teams with Major Wright and 2nd year player Bradley McCougald.

    The Bucs offense is having its own share of problems - they rank 29th in the NFL in total offense and points scored, and are second to last in rushing yards averaging just 78 yards a game.  Pro Bowl running back Doug Martin has just 273 yards on the season.  Bobby Rainey leads the team with 406 yards and also has 33 catches, rookie Charlie Sims is also in the mix.  They'll face a Panther defense that ranks 19th against the run allowing 115 yards per game.

    Josh McCown is once again the Bucs starting quarterback, although he was benched for six games in favor of former NC State standout Mike Glennon.  But Glennon threw 6 picks and was sacked 16 times in those games.  So McCown is back in control for now and has some talented receivers to work with.  Pro Bowler Vincent Jackson teams with rookie Mike Evans.  Jackson i Read More

  • The Panthers Take On Their I-85 Rival In an NFC South Clash

    The Panthers meet one of their biggest rivals Sunday as they welcome the Atlanta Falcons to Bank of America Stadium.   And in spite of the fact both teams have just three wins, this is a key NFC South matchup with the division still up for grabs.  Read More

From the Booth with Jim Szoke: