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Five things to watch vs. New York Jets: The preseason begins


CHARLOTTE – The Panthers officially broke training camp down in Spartanburg, and the team is back home to make their preseason debut against the New York Jets.

There are new coaches, a lot of new players, new schemes, and a new feel in store for Saturday's first preseason game, which kicks off at 4 p.m.

The game will be broadcast on local affiliates across the region and on NFL Network, and you can check out all the info on how to watch it here. 

Now that you know how to watch, let's dive into five Carolina storylines to pay attention to at Bank of America Stadium.

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Bryce Young's debut

Head coach Frank Reich acknowledged the obvious fact that this team is new, and because of that, there should be an expectation that starters will play in the preseason – at least some.

That means the debut of April's first overall pick is on deck this weekend.

Quarterback Bryce Young will play against the Jets, Reich said, though just how much is to be determined.

"We're going to play it by feel," Reich said. "I just want those guys to get in there and get some reps. We just feel like we're at a different stage than other teams. A lot of teams won't play their starters in preseason.

"We've talked as a team from the very beginning and said, 'Hey, we're gonna play in the preseason.' We talked to the guys about that upfront, just so that everybody would understand what's ahead of us and just how it's necessary (it is) for us to do that – new schemes, new coaching staff, young team. And plus, we start the year off with two division opponents, so we've got to get ready to go."

Young has performed well throughout training camp, checking "every box," Reich said. He's built connections with pass catchers, such as new wideouts Adam Thielen, DJ Chark Jr., and Jonathan Mingo and new tight end Hayden Hurst.

"Bryce has looked good," Reich said. "He's continued to progress like the rest of the guys on the team. Obviously, there's a lot of attention and focus on being the first pick of the draft and being our starting quarterback, so I get that.

"I think he's checked every box that he was supposed to check through training camp – taking over the huddle, the leadership, his role of leadership in the locker room and on the field, his command of the offense."

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Extra time for Matt Corral

Young will get his time, but the preseason will also be a big time for backup quarterback Matt Corral. 

Reich said that veteran signal-caller Andy Dalton will likely not play against the Jets, and it would likely be wise to assume he won't play much in the preseason at all. He has plenty of experience across his 12 years in the league, and he played well in training camp with the second offense.

Corral never hit the field in his rookie season after sustaining a Lisfranc injury in the preseason last year against the Patriots. The former Ole Miss quarterback was a third-round selection by the Panthers in the 2022 draft. 

"We want to give Matt a really good look, give him an opportunity," Reich said. "(We) feel like he's progressed well in training camp and just really needs the reps. Andy's played a lot of football in the league and has practiced well.

"I'm not going to pin myself down into a corner on any one thing, but the general inclination for this game, which could change, but for right now, not thinking Andy will play this game."

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Running backs behind Miles Sanders

With new running back Miles Sanders unlikely to play Saturday with a groin "tweak," per Reich, there will be plenty of opportunities for the running backs behind him to get some time.

Chuba Hubbard and Raheem Blackshear have taken most of the reps behind Sanders throughout training camp, and it wouldn't be off-base to assume the Jets could see a lot of Blackshear, as well as depth players Spencer Brown and Camerun Peoples.

"I've told our players, generally speaking, 'Hey, everybody, get ready to play,' because that's what we need," Reich said. "We need that mindset. Everybody get ready to play. Everybody assume their plan. And as we go game by game, week by week, player by player, we will make the decisions that are best for the player and best for the team."

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Different kicker while Piñeiro recovers

A new kicker will be out on the field Saturday while starter Eddy Piñeiro continues to recover from a groin injury.

The Panthers brought in Matthew Wright toward the end of training camp to kick in his absence, but they aren't too alarmed about Piñeiro's status. Reich said he's improving, though the team will play it safe for now.

"He's doing well, he's progressing; we're going to be cautious," Reich said. "Eddy has established himself to be our kicker. So we want to make sure that we stay ahead of this thing and wait until he's full strength to get him back in there."

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Defensive depth

The Panthers will also get a look at depth on the defensive side, including some looks at outside linebacker for Yetur Gross-Matos, DJ Johnson, Amaré Barno, and Kobe Jones, as well as backup cornerbacks Keith Taylor Jr., CJ Henderson, and Stantley Thomas-Oliver III.

They'll also get more looks at training camp star Kamu Grugier-Hill, who grabbed four interceptions across the 11 practice days. 

The linebacker acquired through free agency flashed throughout camp, and teammates and coaches took notice. 

"He has had a very good training camp, but not a surprise to me," Reich said. "I worked with Kamu in Philadelphia, coached against him when he was in Houston. He's a playmaker, and a great teammate, great player. So he did look good."

Check out scenes from the Panthers' first joint practice against the New York Jets on Wednesday.

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