The first 2 weeks of the NFL preseason are marketed towards the new faces each team will have to get used to. It has been fun watching all of the new rookies, but week 3 is the real deal. Tonight when the New England Patriots take on the Carolina Panthers at Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte, NC, most of the starters on each team will be on the field for the better part of the game.
Battle of the Backs
Four out of the seven times these teams have met in the regular and postseason, there have been one-possession games. Unfortunately for Patriots fans, the last two meetings have gone to the Panthers. Tonight, the fourth quarter will be in the hands of second string QBs Brian Hoyer and Garrett Gilbert; rather than reigning MVP Tom Brady and 2015 MVP Cam Newton.
Newton and Brady both have high expectations this season. Both will be creating more chemistry with their star running backs Christian McCaffrey for the Panthers and James “Sweet Feet” White for the Patriots. McCaffrey was a triple threat at Stanford known for games where he would have a receiving touchdown, a rushing touchdown, and return a punt for a touchdown. Newton took advantage of throwing to McCaffrey out of the backfield last year as the rookie caught 80 passes for 651 yards and 5 touchdowns, compared to his 435 rushing yards and 2 rushing touchdowns. James White has the challenge of replacing Dion Lewis who signed with Tennessee this offseason. White is known for his postseason success. He was a big part of Super Bowl LI scoring 2 touchdowns and a 2 point conversion including the game-winning touchdown. He has become a fan favorite and it will be interesting to see how often Brady will go to him tonight.
Eyes on the Wide Receivers
Another thing to watch is Brady gaining trust with new WR Cordarrelle Patterson. After just releasing Kenny Britt this week, Brady has to get his timing down with someone other than Gronkowski, Hogan, and White. Patterson showed off his quickness and agility on a touchdown from Hoyer last week against the Eagles. The media has drawn Patterson out to be more of a kick returner, but I think he will shine catching passes as well this year. Brady and the Pats will be looking to establish their top option for Week 1, as Julian Edelman will be suspended for the first four games of the season.
This is the last real look at the Patriots starters until week 1 against Houston. Next week will be primarily for Hoyer, rookie QB Danny Etling, and all players trying to prove themselves before the final round of cuts.
Tonight’s game can be watched in the area on CBS and can be heard on 98.5 The Sports Hub.
–Johnny Maffei is a Staff Writer and covers the New England Patriots for Full Press Coverage Sports Media. Follow him on Twitter @JohnnyBSBL4