CHARLOTTE – "It's not whether you win or lose; it's how you play the game."
That cliché doesn't fly in the NFL – unless it's the preseason.
"I don't put much thought into winning and losing in the preseason, but putting together drives and gaining momentum is what the preseason is for," Panthers tight end
"Hopefully, we can build toward that."
The Panthers get their first chance to play winning football at home on Saturday night at 8 when they welcome the New York Jets to Bank of America Stadium. The game can be seen on the following Panthers Television Network stations, with Mike Morgan calling the game along with color commentator Mike Rucker and sideline reporter Pete Yanity.
For the Jets game only, due to a conflict with ABC’s national programming, the game will be broadcast by WLFL-CW in the Raleigh/Durham region of North Carolina and by WAVY-NBC in the Hampton Roads/Tidewater area of Virginia and along the Outer Banks.
Carolina dropped its preseason opener, 17-12, at Baltimore on Aug. 12, with the expected mix of good and not-so-good moments. The starters are slated to double their playing time Saturday – head coach John Fox said they would essentially play the first half – making the need for progress paramount.
"We just need to tighten some things up," quarterback
"That's what we're shooting for this week."
Here are a few things they'll be aiming to see against the Jets, who dropped their preseason opener to the New York Giants, 31-16, on Monday.
RIGHT UPFRONT: The offensive line, viewed as a strength with four starters returning, struggled some in the opener. Linemen accounted for seven of the Panthers' nine penalties, and the Ravens racked up seven sacks.
Fox downplayed the performance, pointing to it being the first game. Chemistry on the offensive line is an important component – and one that the Panthers had last season – but it typically takes time for that to develop.
The continued absence of starting right tackle
PASSING FANCY: The problems in protection limited the effectiveness of the passing game, but the Panthers need to help themselves as well.
With pressure coming fast and furious, the running backs and tight ends were active in the passing game, but the wide receivers were mostly silent.
With things nowhere close to sorted out at wideout, the Panthers' quarterbacks need time to throw so the coaches have time to evaluate the receivers. The holdout of Jets cornerback Darrelle Revis should help, but New York is still strong in the secondary one season after limiting opponents to 30 fewer passing yards per game than the next-best defense.
SECONDARY STRENGTH: Despite the Panthers getting pressure on the passer against Baltimore – they collected six sacks and dropped starter Joe Flacco twice in the first quarter – the Ravens had success throwing the ball.
The return of cornerback
Gamble missed the Baltimore game and a good amount of practice time leading up to it with a hyperextended knee. He returned to practice shortly after the Ravens game and declared himself 100 percent.
Gamble is first in team history in starts at cornerback (93) and second in interceptions (24). Clearly, he's a key part of the reason the Panthers ranked fourth in the NFL in passing yardage allowed a season ago, and his return can only help against the Jets.
A fellow secondary starter, safety
KICKING THEMSELVES: Special teams were an area of concern much of last season, and the preseason opener did little to change that.
Some of the problems against Baltimore were familiar, like a long punt return allowed by a Panthers unit that was 29th in the NFL in that category in 2009. Some were new, like
The problems in placekicking appear to be an anomaly. Against the Jets, the Panthers hope to take a step toward making the problems in other special teams situations go away as well.
STARGAZING: Panthers fans might want to break out some vintage jerseys and perhaps a pair of binoculars, as the first Panthers Homecoming will take place in conjunction with the game.
A multitude of former players will be on the field at halftime as a part of the festivities -- Wesley Walls, Steve Beuerlein, Pat Terrell and Doug Evans among them.
SMOKE FREE: Fans are reminded that Bank of America Stadium is a smoke-free facility. The policy has been in place since the first of the year to comply with North Carolina state law. The seating bowl was smoke free in the past, but the policy now extends to the concourses, ramps and all other areas of the stadium.