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Carolina Panthers

Panthers ready to match Jordan Matthews

CHARLOTTE – The most productive outing of Eagles wide receiver Jordan Matthews' rookie season came against the Panthers in Week 10 of last year.

Matthews recorded nine catches for 138 yards and two touchdowns in Philadelphia's dominant victory. As the Eagles' top receiver in 2015, Matthews leads the team with 36 catches for 384 receiving yards, though his four drops are second-most among wideouts in the NFL.

"He's a slot guy, and he's their big guy as far as (needing) a play," cornerback Josh Norman said. "We just have to be aware of that and aware of where he's at."

Who will be tasked with covering Matthews on Sunday night?

Could it be Norman, widely considered the league's top cornerback through six weeks, or maybe nickel corner Bene Benwikere, a skilled player who has shown a knack for foiling slot receivers?

"We'll see," head coach Ron Rivera said. "A lot of the things we do will predicate on what they're doing. Yeah, we try to match certain things up, but a lot if it has to do with the calls that we're making."

Either way, the Panthers are glad to have Benwikere available to face the Eagles this time around. Last season, Benwikere missed the game with an ankle injury that forced him out for six weeks total.

"Last year when we played them I was injured, and it was the very first week we had to throw Colin (Jones) out there at nickel," Benwikere said. "He just didn't have that experience to help make calls and things like that. He understood things, but more as far as verbalizing and anticipating. Both of us have that experience and understanding now to make calls and checks so we can play a little faster."

Added Norman: "Bene is big for us. When you can have a guy like that playing against Jordan Matthews in the slot, that's awesome."

Benwikere doesn't know exactly how often he'll line up opposite Matthews, but he's ready for the assignment.

"I definitely look forward to it," Benwikere said. "But I also know that there are going to be a lot of moving parts. I know I'll have him sometimes and I'll also end up on some tight ends. I have to make sure I don't get too locked in on what he's doing – make sure I'm understanding what the defensive call is and play what the coaches want."

One of the factors that makes Matthews a tough cover is the up-tempo system he functions within. The Carolina coaching staff has taken that into account and structured practice to help the defense prepare for the fast-operating unit they are going to face.

"We have repped up the number count of plays, and on top of that we've done things where we can't really see the (offense's) formation until late and we don't get the call until late," Benwikere said. "We have to make sure we think and react quickly and get (communication) out. The whole staff has done a nice job getting us ready. It definitely has helped."

View photos from the Panthers' week of practice leading up to their game versus the Eagles.

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