The injury bug is a fickle one, and nobody wants to lose talent before the first game. Unfortunately for Carolina and Jacksonville, they could not survive the preseason without losing key talent.
On Sunday, none of that matters.
The Panthers will move on without prime target Kelvin Benjamin, who tore his ACL halfway through training camp. Carolina was already lacking at receiver, and needs big contributions from young talent like Devin Funchess to keep their passing game viable.
In Jacksonville, it took just one play during rookie camp to dampen the Jag’s expectations. Rookie Dante Fowler, Jr. was injured during his first practice as a Jaguar, and the defender will sit out his entire rookie season. Jacksonville has made other improvements on both sides of the ball, and will look to get their franchise back on the right track starting with a win Sunday.
Carolina Panthers vs. Jacksonville Jaguars
Sunday, September 13 at 1 p.m. ET
The game will be broadcast on FOX with Chris Myers and Ronde Barber on the call. Click here to see a full broadcast map and find out if the game is being shown in your area.
Everbank Field, Jacksonville FL
Carolina -3 via Oddsshark
Carolina 16, Jacksonville 10 on September 25, 2011 in Carolina
Scouting the Panthers
Carolina is all about Cam, but what about the talent around him?
The Panthers offense revolves around Newton, who signed a $118 million contract extension this summer. Around that, the Panthers lost their best receiver in Benjamin, and failed to re-sign veteran running back DeAngelo Williams. Expect to see veterans Jerricho Cotchery and Ted Ginn Jr. on the outsides, and a heavy dose of Jonathan Stewart in the backfield.
Carolina is still strong on defense, led by Luke Kuechly, who is out to prove he is the league’s best linebacker this season. Kuechly is the heart of the Carolina defense, having recorded 203 tackles in the previous two seasons.
Scouting the Jaguars
Jacksonville’s season revolves around the maturation of Blake Bortles. Bortles finished with a 3-10 record his rookie season, struggling with consistency as is common with rookie quarterbacks.
Now he’s had a full offseason of reps as the starter, and has been working on a new offense under new OC Greg Olsen. The Jaguars attempted to support Bortles by signing elite tight end Julius Thomas, but a finger injury will sideline Thomas for the opener. Bortles still has options, bolstered by rookie T.J. Yeldon. Yeldon is the latest Alabama running back to make his NFL debut, but is arguably the least physical of the previous draftees. Sunday will provide a glimpse into whether he develops right away like Eddie Lacy, takes his time like Mark Ingram, or never make the cut like Trent Richardson.
The Jags improved on both sides of the ball this offseason. On defense they added four starters in free agency, including former Dolphin Jared Odrick and ex-49er linebacker Dan Skuta.