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What to watch: Panthers-Titans


CHARLOTTE – Winning and losing isn't necessarily a crucial component of the preseason, but gaining or losing confidence can be.

With the starters expected to be in the mix for the first three quarters of Saturday's game against the Tennessee Titans at Bank of America Stadium (8 p.m., Panthers Television Network), now is the time for some position groups to build confidence as others aim to maintain the confidence they've already built.

"A touchdown would be nice, for us and especially for the fans," wide receiver Dwayne Jarrett said of an offense yet to produce a touchdown. "The first two games, we started off kind of slow.

"This game, we're going to try to get out fast, start early, and then just keep the pressure on."

Here's a look at some areas where confidence is concerned.

THE QUARTERBACKS: The Panthers' quarterbacks collectively rank last in the NFL in passer rating midway through the preseason, but head coach John Fox isn't losing sleep over the stats.

"A lot of times when you don't have success early on in the passing game, it all goes to the quarterback, but I've been pleased with how they've played," Fox said. "I think they've improved each week, and I'm not as concerned about that as maybe some people on the outside."

Still, the signal callers could use a boost of confidence. The Titans rank 26th in the preseason in passing yards allowed but looked good when the Arizona Cardinals had their starters in Monday night.

Carolina starter Matt Moore should play about three quarters. Rookie Jimmy Clausen, who has grabbed control of the No. 2 job, could be limited if the Panthers decide to take a closer look at Hunter Cantwell and Tony Pike, who didn't play last week.

THE WIDE RECEIVERS: The wideouts competing for playing time alongside Steve Smith haven't separated themselves from each other, in part because they haven't been separating from defensive backs before blitzes break down the pocket.

Jarrett, the elder statesman of the group behind Smith, doesn't sound overly concerned.

"As a group, we're a hundred percent confident," Jarrett said. "We have a great bunch. We just have to do what we have to do, be where we're supposed to be and make our plays."

Through two games, Jarrett and rookie Armanti Edwards lead the group with a modest total of four receptions apiece. Kenny Moore is the yardage leader with 51 yards on two catches.


THE RETURN UNITS: Edwards took the blame for two turnovers in punt return last Saturday against the New York Jets, plus Kenny Moore lost a fumble on a hard hit.

"When you have young players that have never done it in the National Football League, that tends to be the case, and we've got two preseason games to get that squared away," Fox said. "It's like anything else -- the more you do it, the better you get."

Captain Munnerlyn, the primary punt returner a year ago, did the best job in the last game, but Fox hasn't given up on other possible options.

"I was very confident out there," Edwards said. "I caught over a hundred punts in camp, so there isn't any excuse anymore. I've got to do a better job of getting under the ball and make sure I catch them."

THE DEFENSIVE LINE: While Edwards could use a major confidence boost, the Panthers' defensive line couldn't be much more confident than it is right now.

The Titans have the ability to shake that confidence.

Vince Young will be the most mobile quarterback the Panthers have faced thus far, and Chris Johnson is one of just six running backs in NFL history to rush for 2,000 yards in a season.

THE BENCH WARMERS: The fourth quarter will be the last opportunity for some players near the bottom of the pecking order to gain the confidence of the coaching staff.

By Tuesday, the Panthers must get their roster down to 75 players, meaning that four players will be looking for work after the weekend.

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