It's preseason game #4 so history tells us this game is about the bubble players and the team flushing out the remainder of their open roster spots. The starters are expected to play no more than 1 quarter if not less and will give way to the back-ups. We do have some obvious things to look for with the starters on both sides of the ball:
Note: Open Thread tonight at 7:30pm!
1st Team Offense: How about to simply score a TD? Novel idea I know. If I'm Fox I say score a TD on your first drive and I let you sit the rest out. Don't score and you play the whole quarter. I would love to play them more and hopefully work on the passing game but I'm too worried about the injury risk. I wouldn't mind if they are pulled after the first series regardless.
One other thing to observe is who starts at RG. If Mackenzy Bernardeau is in there again then that pretty much says he has locked down the RG spot. The only risk in that assessment is the possibility of Geoff Schwartz being moved over to RG once RT Jeff Otah returns game 1.
Back-up Offense: We've seen plenty of Clausen so expect him to go through the 2nd quarter and maybe into the 3rd. I'd rather let Hunter Cantwell and Tony Pike take a quarter each to audition for their spot on the 53 man....
1st Team defense: Do we really need to see much of the defense? As much as I would like to see how they perform against Big Ben I would rather see most of the he starters sit after the first series. But there's the rub, who's starting at DT? Since we don't really know we can expect to see a lot of rotation up front, probably until well into the 2nd quarter. This is also another position where I will be curious to see who starts. It should indicate who has the inside track on those two spots....more after the jump...
Back-up Defense: Outside of DT we have serious competition for back-up spots at LB and in the secondary. We know Eric Norwood and probably Jordan Senn have roster spots; Senn for his work on ST. That leaves room for one or two more LB's. Look for Jamar Williams, Morty Ivy, Quinton Culberson and Nic Harris to try and light it up tonight.
At safety we have Jordan Pugh nailing down a spot given how high the coaches are on him. So that leaves Aaron Francisco trying to unseat special teamer Marcus Hudson. I'm not seeing that one since I've seen little of Francisco since he's been hurt.
At CB we have one or two positions to fill. Incumbent CJ Wilson is getting pressure from Brian Witherspoon who had two (YES TWO!) INTs last week. In the mix we also have the twin 7th round CB picks Robert McClain and RJ Stanford. Both have had their moments on special teams but I think the Panthers have room for one of them at best.
The last spot that might be earned could go to DE Eric Moore. He has looked really good this preseason. If he plays well tonight he won't wait for a job long if the Panthers still cut him.
Special Teams: If KOS Tood Carter belts all his kicks tonight into the end zone he is on the roster. Fox prefers to let a team start at the 20 versus trying to cover a return.
With Wallace Wright on IR as of Tuesday we need another gunner. One of young DB's such as RJ Stanford or Jordan Pugh could get a shot. Let's see who lines up on the Panthers first KO and punt coverage.
Lastly the return game is still up in the air. Mike Goodson made a solid case for KO returns with his 91 yarder for a TD last week. We might still see others rotation in there tonight but I'm hoping they just let Goodson get the reps.
On PRs I'd like to see Trent Guy again. (Nope, GUY is out) The benching of Armanti Edwards, though painful, is the best route for the Panthers and Edwards. He could very well re-emerge at the position later in the season but for now lets see how Guy and Witherspoon perform. Both are on the bubble and need a good showing tonight.