Preseason games should be used to see a team's weaknesses, and the Panthers will have plenty of opportunities to see their problems tested when they host the Chicago Bears on Friday. The offensive line and secondary will be pushed early, and the result will set the tone for the 2013 season.
The offensive line problems have been discussed, but they'll be on full show against a talented Bears' defensive line. Early in training camp the second team defense has been manhandling the first team line, and that's a huge problem. This week they'll see a multi-faceted pass rush from Julius Peppers, Corey Wootton and Henry Melton -- who combined for 27.5 sacks in 2012. The biggest concern of the three is Melton, who's one of the best pass rushing under tackles in the league, and he'll have an opportunity to work against Garry Williams' suspect pass protection.
It will be easy to get lost in the performance of the offensive skill position players, but all will be for naught if the line can't protect. Friday's game will also be the first opportunity to see what this new-look offense plays like on the field. The game is a challenge for Mike Shula to prove he can back up his rather vague talk. Are the Panthers really a true North-South running team, working the play action to take pressure off Cam Newton, or was the suggestion placation, rather than installation? We'll know more after this week.
As big as the challenges are for the offense, the secondary are in for an equal test. It's not that Chicago boasts burners on offense, but they have size the Panthers can't match. Between Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery, the Bears are slated to have an average advantage of 4.5 inches and 25.5 pounds over the Panthers' diminutive starting cornerbacks (assuming they start Drayton Florence and Captain Munnerlyn). This is vitally important, because it's a similar situation the team will find themselves in when they face the Atlanta Falcons during the regular season.
There will be plenty to judge when the game begins on Friday, but keep your eyes locked to the offensive line and secondary if you really want to glean any information about the 2013 Panthers. The season is right around the corner, finally.