Quarterback News Galore in Panthers-Jaguars Preseason Tilt

Jay Pryce

Thursday, August 24, 2017 1:01 PM UTC

Thursday, Aug. 24, 2017 1:01 PM UTC

Quarterback surprises highlight the Panthers-Jaguars matchup at Everbank Field on Thursday (7:30 p.m. ET). Cam Newton will be under center for the first time this preseason, while Chad Henne gets the start over the ineffective Blake Bortles. 

Carolina Panthers at Jacksonville Jaguars

Panthers quarterback Cam Newton is a man of style, therefore it is fitting he makes his first appearance of the exhibition period in the regular season dress rehearsal. The 2015 NFL MVP hasn’t touched the field since undergoing offseason rotator cuff surgery.

Carolina hopes Newton’s appearance jump starts a first-team offense that has had its share of issues since camp opened. The unit turned the ball over on its first play in a 34-27 loss at Tennessee last week, and backup Derek Anderson gifted an interception return for a touchdown.

One bright spot for the unit was rookie running back Christian McCaffrey. He accrued 72 total yards and scored his first NFL touchdown. The backfield racked up 167 yards on the ground, averaging 7.6 yards per rush.

Head coach Ron Rivera remarked after the Titans loss he was embarrassed by the performance, demanding the squad get back to “physical” football vs. the Jags. The defense will certainly play tougher with captain Luke Kuechly expected back in at linebacker. The former Defensive Player of the Year sat out last week with sore ribs. The Panthers' second-team defense is the area of concern, however. It gave up a slew of big gains at Tennessee.

The Jaguars are still searching for a starting quarterback between Blake Bortles and Chad Henne. Head coach Doug Marrone officially named Henne the starter against the Panthers late Wednesday night. Bortles’ days leading the offense appear numbered. The fourth-year pro’s development is stagnant, going 11 of 18 for 81 yards and no scores this preseason.

Although quarterback questions dominate Jacksonville’s headlines going into contest, the running game is most concerning for Marrone. The offensive line has played great in pass protection this camp, but the run blocking needs some work. The Jags, expected to be a rush-first team this season, picked up just 30 yards on 17 carries in a 12-8 loss to the Bucs last week. Also of concern is the D-line, which allowed plenty of easy gains to Tampa running backs. The unit ceded 130 yards on the ground, most in the first half, and tallied just one tackle for a loss.

The Jags have a host of short-term injuries to key players tonight. Sitting out are wide receiver Marqise Lee, cornerback A.J. Bouye, tight end Mychal Rivera, and running backs T.J. Yeldon and Leonard Fournette.

What’s the play? Tough call. Newton appeared fully fit in practice, but his timing is a bit off, according to observers. Rivera typically plays Newton through halftime in preseason game No. 3, but beat reporters believe he will take snaps barely into the second quarter before yielding to Anderson. The Jags, meanwhile, will look to establish the run and let Henne manage a balanced attack. Don’t expect either offense to flourish with each still ironing out major issues.

Free NFL Pick: ‘Under’ 43Best Line Offered: Bookmaker

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