SPARTANBURG, S.C. (AP) — Carolina Panthers coach Frank Reich informed his players that nearly all should expect to play in Saturday’s preseason home opener against the New York Jets.
Reich said it’s largely because the Panthers have new coaches, new schemes and several new players. They need to get prepared for the start of the regular season, which begins with two straight games against NFC South division foes.
“We just feel like we’re at a different stage,“ than other teams, Reich said. ”A lot of teams won’t play their starters in the preseason. We’ve talked as a team from the very beginning and said, ‘Hey, we’re gonna play in the preseason.’ … We’ve got to get ready to go.”
Meanwhile, the Jets plan to rest 18-year veteran Aaron Rodgers, and coach Robert Saleh was non-committal Thursday on if the other starters will play in their second preseason game, saying only “we’ll see.”
The Panthers plan to give No. 1 overall pick Bryce Young his first career preseason start, although it’s unclear how much he’ll play.
Reich has been impressed with how the 22-year-old Young has progressed, saying the rookie from Alabama has “checked all of the boxes he needed to check” during training camp.
“Taking over the huddle, his leadership in the locker room and on the field, his command of the offense… they are all things that have showed up again and again,” Reich said.
Added Panthers backup QB Andy Dalton: “Bryce has had a really good camp. I think he feels really comfortable with everything that we are doing and this (offense) is really tailored to his skillset.”
The Panthers and Jets planned to meet for a second day of the joint practices at Wofford College on Thursday, but it was canceled due to lightning and rain in the area.
Both coaches agreed it was best to cancel to avoid injuries on a soggy field.
The Jets instead hosted their own practice on campus at Gibbs Stadium, while the Panthers held a brief walkthrough before breaking camp and returning to Charlotte, North Carolina.
Saleh said after watching film from Wednesday’s two-hour, full-padded practice the Jets offense is still “a little behind” and remains a work in progress with so many new pieces.
Rodgers spoke to reporters after that practice and hinted at concerns over the offensive line, which remains largely in a state of flux with veteran tackle Duane Brown still out of practice while continuing to work his way back from offseason shoulder surgery.
The Jets haven’t settled on a starting five up front, with the center and both tackle spots up for grabs.
“My optimistic side will say we have time, Duane is coming back,” Saleh said. “There are still a lot pieces we’ve got. We have some cards in our back pocket. But as a coach you want it done yesterday. We want these guys to start rolling. We want confidence. We want to start humming.”
But Saleh said it’s comforting having a veteran such as Rodgers, a four-time league MVP, at quarterback.
“It’s great,” Saleh said. “He’s been through all of the highs and lows, the winning seasons and losing seasons and world championships. He’s been part of teams that have started slow and finished fast, and vice versa. He’s another coach out there. He’s a tremendous source of information for me to just be able to talk through things because he’s in the locker room.”
NOTES: Panthers RB Miles Sanders is unlikely to play Saturday after he tweaked his groin in practice, Reich said. … Jets WR Garrett Wilson (sprained ankle) participated in team drills for the first time since July 27, but it’s unclear if he’ll play.
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