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Five Things to Watch at New England: Assessing for depth 


FOXBOROUGH, Mass. – After a pair of productive joint practices in New England (even if chippy, at times), the Panthers are set to play their second preseason game against the Patriots.

Carolina meets the Patriots for a Friday evening kickoff at Gillette Stadium, with the game getting underway at 7 p.m.

The Panthers' starters got some work done throughout the week's joint practices, so it's probably safe to assume we'll be getting a look at depth pieces across the roster.

That means potentially more snaps for rookie quarterback Matt Corral, or even a chance to catch more flashy moments from wideouts like Brandon Zylstra or undrafted rookie Derek Wright.

Here's a look at five things we'll be watching Friday night in Foxborough:

Matt Corral


Baker Mayfield and Sam Darnold took the bulk of the reps in practice, which means it's a safe bet that Friday night's preseason matchup is a time to see a bulk of the plays coming from Corral and PJ Walker under the lights.

Walker tallied the most snaps of any Panthers quarterback in Washington last weekend, a stat that shouldn't be unexpected for preseason matchups. He came in for much of the second and third quarters at Washington, threw for 136 yards on 10-of-19 passing, and will likely have another opportunity to make the most of his reps in New England.

But there will also be eyes fixed on Corral, who completed his first attempt for 11 yards to Keith Kirkwood against the Commanders but missed on his next eight throws.

The rookie came in for the fourth quarter last time out and finished his day going 1-of-9 passing. Corral headed up the game-winning drive, extended in part by penalties, but there were also moments like having his helmet ripped off during a play.

He'll be hoping for better results in his second go at live game action in the NFL, given that his first start was laced with those "welcome to the league" kind of moments.

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The pieces in front of the quarterback are another piece of the puzzle to keep an eye on, as the Panthers can assess some backup offensive line combinations with the newfound luxury of depth.

Head coach Matt Rhule said he's settled that Ikem Ekwonu will be staying at starting left tackle for the future, which sets up some clarity for the first-team offensive line with Ekwonu, Brady Christensen, Pat Elflein, Austin Corbett and Taylor Moton lining up left-to-right.

And with injuries naturally popping up through the gauntlet of training camp and joint practice in the preseason, it's a good thing players such as rookie Cade Mays were drafted to provide depth at virtually any place along the line.

Bradley Bozeman, who'd been in a competition for the first-team center spot with Elflein, will be out for a couple of weeks with an ankle injury suffered in joint practice, so there are opportunities to see Sam Tecklenburg snapping the ball. Mays also got some more work at center in Wednesday's practice, so the Panthers have options to show against New England.


The injury bug has taken a chunk out of depth toward the top of the wide receiver room, as Robbie Anderson, Terrace Marshall Jr., and Andre Roberts were all sidelined in Wednesday's practice.

It left room to see players such as Wright make some catches or for Rashard Higgins and Shi Smith to get more work with the first two quarterbacks.

The wideout room has pieces with potential top-to-bottom, and depth players such as undrafted rookies Charleston Rambo and Ra'Shaun Henry could reap the benefits of more playing time in a preseason game at New England – especially with the depleted state of the position.


The Panthers were looking slightly more stable at the tight end position after ending training camp on a weird note, moving Tecklenburg over to catch some passes amid a flurry of injuries.

But the room got a bit thinner toward the end of joint practice, as second-year breakout candidate Tommy Tremble didn't practice on Wednesday, though the situation didn't appear serious. Ian Thomas, Colin Thompson, and Josh Babicz remain out with injuries.

What the Panthers choose to show from the tight ends – and what they have to show – against the Patriots should be interesting, given the slimmed-down look in the tight end room.

Giovanni Ricci and undrafted rookie Jared Scott are two of the names to watch for, and some more looks for Tecklenburg may not be off the table, either.

Amare Barno


The Panthers watched as rookie defensive end Amaré Barno flashed his potential as a disrupter against the Commanders. The sixth-rounder from Virginia Tech had his day, forcing an early fumble and pressuring Washington quarterback Taylor Heinicke into throwing an interception.

Cornerback Duke Dawson Jr. caught that pick, making the most of his chance to play more snaps in a preseason matchup.

Some more faces could emerge from the New England game, such as defensive tackle Phil Hoskins, who tallied four tackles, a sack and a TFL against Washington, or rookie cornerback Kalon Barnes, the seventh-round pick looking to show he's more than just the fast guy on the roster.

The Panthers' defense has impressive pieces at the top, and your first thoughts would probably include Brian Burns, Shaq Thompson, Jeremy Chinn, Donte Jackson, and Jaycee Horn, but preseason games give an opportunity to assess the best options to backup the stars. That's a question Friday's matchup will look to answer.

Carolina is 4-4 all-time against the Patriots. The teams faced off in Super Bowl XXXVIII at the end of the 2003 season.