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Carolina Panthers

Rapid Reactions: Protection was an issue early


CHARLOTTE — The Panthers came into the year encouraged by bringing all five starting offensive linemen back from last year.

After one preseason game, there's perhaps a new sense of interest in his timeline. They're clearly not going to play him before he's ready, but they're ready for someone to step up in his absence.

The Panthers used three different right guards in quarterback Bryce Young's three series, with Cade Mays taking the first series, Justin McCray the second, and Michael Jordan the third.

It wasn't ideal for any of them, as the Panthers put no points on the board with the first offense.

The Jets have a very good front four and were a top-five defense last season, and they applied pressure to Young throughout his debut (and continued after he left).

They hit Young three times, with a sack by Quinton Jefferson after he blew last Jordan on the third series. And Young took some shots from elsewhere on the line, including one on the first series by Solomon Thomas, past left tackle Ikem Ekwonu.

Corbett is progressing well in his rehab, but it's probably not realistic to expect him in the first month of the regular season. So line coach James Campen has some work to do the rest of camp.

One player who could be part of the mix wasn't available Saturday.

Undrafted rookie Nash Jensen, who has had a solid camp so far, did not dress for the game as he deals with a back injury.

Amare Barno

— The defensive starters played a grand total of one series and did the bend-but-not-break thing against Jets backup quarterback Zach Wilson. (Aaron Rodgers didn't dress for the game.)

They opened the game without starting outside linebackers Brian Burns and Justin Houston, two guys with a combined 149.5 career sacks (111.5 for Houston, 38.0 for Burns).

That makes a difference, but they still performed reasonably well.

Yetur Gross-Matos and Kobe Jones started in those two spots, and Amaré Barno played well in his spots, with a sack of Wilson.

The Panthers actually put their nickel defense on the field to open the game, so the pass-rushers were there with Shy Tuttle and Derrick Brown, with linebackers Shaq Thompson and Frankie Luvu, and five defensive backs.

That alignment meant Jeremy Chinn was a starter, along with safeties Vonn Bell and Xavier Woods and corners Jaycee Horn and Donte Jackson.

That group made a few plays that won't count on the stat sheet.

Luvu appeared to force a fumble on Jets running back Zonovan Knight, and Woods recovered. But after review, Knight was ruled down by contact.

Jackson also had a pass breakup in the end zone, though that was negated by a tripping call on Jets center Connor McGovern.

The Jets turned that 13-play drive into a field goal, and that was it for the defensive starters.

— Kickoff returner Raheem Blackshear said he planned to "run it back" this year, and the first preseason game offered no evidence to the contrary.

Even with an NFL rule change that would allow kickoff returners to fair catch the ball and take it at the 25, Blackshear showed the Panthers planned to be aggressive in that phase.

The Jets buried the opening kickoff so deep in the end zone there was no choice to be made but take the touchback. He could have waved his arm on either of his next two attempts, but caught the first at the 1-yard line and returned it for 23 yards, and at the 6 on his second and returned it 14 yards.

In both instances, the safe play would have netted them more yards, but special teams coordinator Chris Tabor believes they have the ability to make big plays on returns.

Blackshear averaged 27.0 yards per return last year, and had a 66-yarder against the Bengals.

— Safety Sam Franklin Jr. is one of the top special teams players around, but he has shown the ability to do other things.

He made some plays in late work last year, and had a pick in Saturday's game.

Franklin also is in charge of bringing energy to the team, and he did plenty of that in the joint practice with the Jets this week. He kept a running dialogue during special teams drills, getting under the skins of the visitors at times.

— Wide receiver Shi Smith appeared to go down hard on his shoulder, but came back in the game and caught a 20-yard pass from Matt Corral in the fourth quarter.

Backup tackle Cameron Erving was listed as questionable to return with right knee and ankle injuries.

View photos from warmups at the Panthers' first preseason game against the Jets.

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