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Carolina Panthers

Rapid Reactions: First defense, as it was, allowed long drive

Shaq Thompson, Vonn Bell

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — It's hard to call what the Panthers opened the game with their first defense since their three best players in the front seven weren't playing.

But it's still not what they were looking for out of the rest of them.

A 21-19 loss to the Giants was another night with plenty of questions to answer on defense, as the Panthers fell to 0-2 in the preseason.

The starters allowed Giants quarterback Daniel Jones to lead an efficient 10-play, 75-yard touchdown drive to open the game, with Jones completing 8-of-9 passes for 69 yards and a short touchdown pass to tight end Daniel Bellinger.

Other than some pressure from Yetur Gross-Matos, which flushed Jones from the pocket, there wasn't a lot to latch onto.

Things should improve once Brian Burns, Justin Houston, and Derrick Brown return to the lineup, but it wasn't a great showing. Like last week's game against the Jets, when Zach Wilson had time to throw and moved the ball well against them, the Panthers haven't done enough to get quarterbacks out of rhythm.

They forced a three-and-out on their second series, but it was against backup quarterback Tyrod Taylor. Frankie Luvu got into the backfield and batted the pass out of Taylor's hands to end that drive.

Safety Vonn Bell has looked solid throughout, and they'll need to count on the secondary if teams are going to try to negate Burns and Houston by getting the ball out quickly.

Chandler Zavala

— It might not require a team meeting afterward, but there were some things to polish up for an offensive line that struggled last week.

Left tackle Ikem Ekwonu allowed a Kayvon Thibodeaux sack of Bryce Young in the early second quarter.

It appeared Ekwonu was caught looking inside and couldn't recover in time as Thibodeaux used his speed to get onto Young.

That wasn't the only setback.

Rookie guard Chandler Zavala was called for a holding on third-and-21, pushing them back another 10 yards. It also wiped out a 15-yard completion to Hayden Hurst.

The Panthers are hanging on to make a decision at right guard, and coach Frank Reich said he'd like to make it this week. Cade Mays, who spent most of the offseason in that spot, didn't play Friday because of a neck issue.

The Panthers got their first looks at Zavala and Nash Jensen, who have also gotten work with the ones during camp. Jensen came in with the second line after Bryce Young and the starters exited following two series.

Raequan Williams

— If you were looking for bright spots defensively, there weren't many, though defensive lineman Raequan Williams played well.

He started at nose tackle with the first group and put together a good night along the way.

He had a sack, two quarterback hits, and a tackle for loss in the first half. Williams joined the Panthers practice squad last October and has had a solid camp. The Michigan State product has also spent time with the Eagles and Jaguars.

— Raheem Blackshear scored the first Panthers touchdown of the preseason in the fourth quarter, and a nice 27-yard Matt Corral connection with Shi Smith got them in position.

That was followed by Jake Luton's first action of the preseason, and he threw one of the nicer passes, hitting Gary Jennings for a touchdown.

— Safety Sam Franklin Jr. made another play on defense, with a fourth down pass breakup in the third quarter.

After last week's interception, he's shown signs he can be a contributor on defense, in addition to being a top special teams player.

— Kicker Matthew Wright had a solid night, including a 53-yard field goal.

But as teams are trying to figure out how to balance the league's new kickoff rules (which allow a fair catch inside the 25 to be spotted at the 25), things can get weird.

Wright was clearly trying to kick off in the field of play, but one kickoff appeared to be dying at the 1-yard line, only to roll out of bounds. That penalty gave the Giants the ball at the 40.

Wright's subbing for Eddy Piñeiro while he recovers from a groin injury.

Check out scenes from the Panthers' second preseason game against the New York Giants.

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