Big Game for Newton and the Panthers

Sharon Thorsland
August 24, 2017 - 8:26 am

© Jeremy Brevard-USA TODAY Sports

The third game of the preseason is always the most important. The starters usually play into the third quarter, there's some actual game planning going on, and it's the closest thing to a regular season game we get. For the Panthers, Thursday night's game against the Jaguars got even bigger when the team announced that Cam Newton would make his preseason debut in the game.

The MVP quarterback hasn't played in a game since New Year's Day and has been working his way back from off-season shoulder surgery. Newton's coaches and teammates alike are excited to see him in action, and of course, so are the fans. And one of Newton's newest weapons will also take the field for the first time – rookie receiver Curtis Samuel will play after missing nearly the entire preseason with a hamstring strain.

Newton and company will face a Jaguars defense that is pretty darn good, they ranked 6th in the NFL last season.

Then the team added several veterans to a young and talented group, bringing in former Houston cornerback A.J. Bouye, longtime Cowboys safety Barry Church, and Pro Bowl defensive end Calaias Campbell from the Cardinals.

The front line features second-year defensive end Yannick Ngakoue, who led the team with 8 sacks as a rookie.

They've got a veteran linebacker in Pro Bowler Paul Posluszny, and some big and athletic guys in the secondary.

Last season the Jaguars managed just 7 interceptions, that was last in the NFL. But the addition of Bouye and Church adds experience to the group, which features up and coming cornerback Jalen Ramsey. 

The Jaguars offense has been pretty darn bad for years now, they've had six straight losing seasons, including last year's 3-13 campaign.

Quarterback Blake Bortles has had a hard time holding on to the football, he threw 16 interceptions last season and lost six fumbles. Bortles hasn't done much to impress this preseason, so first-year coach Doug Marrone has opened up a quarterback competition between Bortles and veteran Chad Henne. They've got plenty of good receivers, but the Jaguars main focus this season will be running the ball. They drafted former LSU standout Leonard Fournette with the fourth overall pick.

He's been out with a foot injury, so expect to see lots of veteran Chris Ivory on Thursday. He'll face a Panthers defense that has been stingy against the run, allowing just 91 yards a game last season, that ranked 6th in the NFL.

This should be a good test for the Panthers, who are coming off a loss to the Titans on Saturday. Coach Ron Rivera says he's looking for more consistency from his players, and guys want to set the tone for the season. It should be a lot of fun!


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