Cut down season is coming, very soon. The Panthers played their final preseason game Friday night. And while the preseason doesn’t necessarily correlate to success in the regular season, it does correlate to individual players development. Let’s take a look at the winners and losers from the final preseason game.
I know, I know, this one’s an easy one. But every time I’ve seen Young take a snap so far in the preseason, all I see is a quarterback who is ready for the big time. In the first two games, I saw Young throw with a ton of anticipation and I saw him play decisively. Young just straight up doesn’t look like a rookie quarterback. Whether its between throwing passes exactly where they need to be (completion or no completion), making a move to keep a play alive and give himself a window to throw, or even just accepting that he’s taking a sack and protecting himself, the guy looks like a pro already. Young looks so comfortable and effortless in the pocket that its almost scary. I understand why the Panthers took him 1st overall, and I’m glad we got to see him turned loose against the Lions. This performance was all about giving him meaningful reps, and he capitalized. That 1st TD throw to Adam Thielen was a thing of beauty. I await the unchained version of this offense come week one with baited breath.
While Brown’s stat line of 13 carries for 51 yards and a TD looks very pedestrian to an outside observer, I feel that his performance showed us that he can be the one thing the Panthers’ backfield is currently lacking; a power back. Brown consistently pushed hard for extra yards and his touchdown further emphasized that. While Brown is not going to beat out Chuba Hubbard or Raheem Blackshear, he made a case for himself to add that element to this offense all preseason, and this performance was a big one as he took on a bell cow role. He probably won’t make the final roster, but he made a case for the Panthers to consider holding 4 RBs.
Ricci was someone I tabbed as a bubble player to watch, and he didn’t disappoint. 3 catches for 50 yards on 4 targets is pretty good for a special teams/fullback/tight end role player. I believe Ricci belongs on this roster because of his versatility, especially when you’re breaking in a rookie quarterback. The more things you can do on offense, the less the quarterback has to do as far as identifying coverages, blitzes, defensive packages, etc.
6 punts for 295 yards, 3 inside the 20, average of 49.2 yards per punt. I’d say that guys pretty good. This iteration of the Panthers will likely need that kind of field flipping talent, especially if the offense doesn’t come out firing on all cylinders. This is the one time I’ll say thank you Matt Rhule.
Henderson once again found himself at the center of the talk this offseason as he was “having a really great camp”. He looked pretty good in the first two preseason games, however it seemed like in this one he was always around players catching wide open catches. Unfortunately, we don’t have the All-22 to figure out whether it was his fault or not, but based on previous history and the trend in this game, there’s a bit of concern. Not to say every rep was bad, but he wasn’t playing against the Lions’ starters, so I expect a little more.
Peoples fumbled twice in this game, when he was already grasping for reps to begin with. Peoples also got 4 attempts and managed 4 yards, though its hard to hold that against him behind a makeshift offensive line of 3rd and 4th stringers. He had a chance at a really pretty receiving TD but just couldn’t quite corral it. I don’t expect him to make the team or the practice squad, mainly because Carolina will be looking for alternative depth and they’ll probably try to keep Spenser Brown in some capacity as their 4th RB.
3rd/4th team offensive tackles
I’m not entirely sure why the Panthers are trying to make Michael Jordan work as a backup offensive tackle, as he clearly would be better at linebacker after he wrapped up a rusher on a pass blocking snap. Cam Erving didn’t play in this game, and Brady Christensen likely factors into the backup tackle conversation, but at the moment I’d cut every tackle that played in the Lions game outside of Ikem Ekwonu and Taylor Moton. Speaking of...
I wasn’t initially concerned with Icky’s struggles in the first two preseason games. Now I am... slightly concerned. For the 3rd week in a row, he allowed a rusher relatively unencumbered to sack Bryce Young. I’m not sure if this is a product of running plays they likely won’t run in the regular season, or if Icky is the kind of player that needs a few games to get going. In 2022, he had a similar slide in the first two games, and he’s played relatively limited snaps in the preseason this year. Still, my eyebrow went from normal to being slightly raised during this game. The current selling point for this offense is continuity on the offensive line, and Bryce Young needs it to see success in year one.
What are your thoughts? Share your winners and losers below in the comments!