What we learned: Panthers vs. Dolphins

SHAQ COMING ON STRONG: Rookie linebacker Shaq Thompson was impressive in his NFL debut. The first-round pick ran stride-for-stride with tight end Jordan Cameron to break up a deep pass and read a pass in the flat perfectly to stop running back Lamar Miller short of the end zone.

Thompson played just the first half, but it was undoubtedly a strong performance to build on.

"It was good to get on the field in a game situation," Thompson said. "I wasn't as sharp from a technique standpoint as I would like to be, but that will come with more reps. I can't wait to look at the tape and see where I can improve."

FOCUS WILL BE ON EALY: With defensive end Frank Alexander now out for the year with a torn right Achilles tendon, the attention squarely shifts to Kony Ealy. The 2014 second-round choice was battling Alexander and others for the starting job.

"You definitely hate it. But it's the nature of the game," Ealy said of Alexander's injury. "We need people to step up."

Ealy must be one of those people, and it was a nice bounce-back performance for the second-year defensive end after a disappointing outing the preseason opener. Early in the first quarter, Ealy sacked Dolphins quarterback Ryan Tannehill and forced a fumble that Miami recovered. Coincidently, Alexander suffered his injury during that very play.

STILL SORTING OUT WIDE RECEIVERS: The wide receivers battling for the final roster spots played well against Miami, but there wasn't much production from the wideouts working with Cam Newton and the first-team offense.

Corey Brown, Ted Ginn, Jr. and Jerricho Cotchery combined to record one catch for 15 yards. Second-round draft choice Devin Funchess did not play due to a hamstring injury suffered during training camp.

"I'm a little disappointed in that we really didn't have anyone step up with the first bunch in terms of the wide receiver corps," Rivera said. "Guys we were hoping and looking to step up, didn't step up as much as I would have liked."

THIRD-TEAM LIKES WINNING: Quarterback Joe Webb and the third-team offense have shown a flair for the dramatic in the preseason. Webb has helped orchestrate fourth-quarter comebacks in back-to-back games, allowing the Panthers to come off the field victorious.

Webb, who ran the offense for the entire second half, completed 12-of-17 passes for 131 yards and one touchdown.

"Joe is just exciting," Rivera said. "There is something about him. He just gets on the football field and makes things happen. He's a lot of fun to watch. You cheer for a guy like that."

View game action photos from Carolina's 31-30 preseason win over Miami.

REDDEN IS AN ATHLETE: Defensive tackles don't often get a chance to show off their ball skills, but Terry Redden sure made the most of his opportunity.

Late in the fourth quarter, Redden read Miami quarterback Josh Freeman's eyes and picked off a check-down pass to running back Demitrius Bronson with one hand. The 6-2, 295-pound rookie then displayed a nifty juke move to stay inbounds and charge toward the end zone, though he was stopped by a pile of players after a 13-yard return at the Dolphins' 4-yard line.

"You saw the little juke move," Ealy said with a smile. "He was going to score, just to let you know, just so we're clear."

EXTRA POINTS: Center Ryan Kalil suffered a left knee injury against the Dolphins. Rivera did not have any additional information on Kalil's status after the game. Cornerback Charles Tillman was held out to rest a groin injury.

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