CHARLOTTE – Joint practices offer a unique opportunity for the coaches on both sides to evaluate their players against an actual opponent in a variety of drills. The same thing applies to those of us watching.
The Panthers and Titans will compete during joint practices on Wednesday and Thursday in Nashville ahead of Saturday's preseason game, and here are some particularly interesting matchups to monitor.
Mario Addison & Julius Peppers vs. Taylor Lewan & Jack Conklin
The explosive Addison, who led the Panthers with 9.5 sacks in 2016, is extremely difficult to handle against an isolated tackle, and we all know what Julius Peppers can do in a one-on-one settings. Pro Football Focus ranked Tennessee as the best offensive line in the NFL last season, and the tackles – former first-rounders Lewan and Conklin – were a big reason why.
Matt Kalil & Daryl Williams vs. Derrick Morgan & Brian Orakpo
On the flip side, Carolina's offensive tackles will see plenty of the Titans' outside linebackers (they run a 3-4 defense). Morgan and Orakpo combined for 19.5 sacks last season to form one of the most productive pass-rushing duos in the league. They'll provide a great test for Kalil and Williams on the edge.
Christian McCaffrey vs. Titans LBs
As running back Jonathan Stewart said during camp, McCaffrey isn't a fair matchup for anyone one-on-one. Luke Kuechly and Thomas Davis know what kind of challenge he presents firsthand. The Titans have some athletic linebackers, and with pride on the line, they would no doubt welcome the chance to guard Carolina's buzz-generating rookie. Good luck.
James Bradberry and Daryl Worley vs. Titans WRs
Bradberry and Worley were training camp standouts, and it will be interesting to see the second-year corners match up against Marcus Mariota's crop of wideouts. First-round pick Corey Davis has been nursing a hamstring injury, but Rishard Matthews and Eric Decker are among those who will line up against them.
Devin Funchess vs. Adoree' Jackson
Funchess mentioned the Titans' rookie cornerback specifically when talking about the upcoming practices in Nashville. "I'm looking forward to going against Adoree'," Funchess said. Jackson, the 18th overall pick in the 2017 draft, boasts tremendous speed. Funchess, meanwhile, thinks people don't respect his speed, so this matchup would present an opportunity to get people's attention.
Panthers LBs vs. Titans RBs
Kuechly, Davis and Shaq Thompson form arguably the best linebacker group in the NFL. DeMarco Murray, with his diverse skillset, and Derrick Henry, with his tremendous strength, form a formidable one-two punch. Whatever the drill may be – blitz pickup, one-on-one in the open field, team periods – this collection of talent will be fun to watch.