JACKSONVILLE, Florida (WTVD) -- The Panthers are in Jacksonville for the squad's third exhibition game of the season. Most NFL teams treat it like a "dress rehearsal" for the real deal which is fast approaching. You can watch the game on ABC11 or stream it live on the ABC app. Here is what to watch for tonight:
The QB! After weeks of wondering about the status of Cam Newton, we get to see him in action tonight. Newton did not suit up for either of the previous two games as he continues to recover from off season rotator cup surgery. His throwing sessions have been limited in practice, but head coach Ron Rivera indicated after practice on Tuesday that Cam would start unless there he experienced any soreness.
Curtis Samuel makes his debut. The speedy wideout has been limited since minicamp with a hamstring issue. Drafted in the 2nd round out of Ohio State, Samuel has been working with the 1st team offense the last few practices and should get some time with Newton tonight against the Jags.
How much McCaffrey? The Panthers 1st rounder has looked electric in his 1st two games. He nearly broke a long run for a score against Houston and ripped off a 17 yard TD in Nashville. Given that he's going to be such an important weapon, does he need more preseason touches? I would think he'll exit the field when Newton does unless he needs more time to adjust to the playbook. McCaffrey's IQ leads me to believe he's got the plays down cold already so why risk it.
Kickers. Yes, not the most exciting topic but an important one. Two of the tighter battles are at punter and place kicker. Punter Andy Lee who's a former pro-bowler is trying to hold off Michael Palardy. Incumbent place kicker Grahm Gano is in a battle with Harrison Butker. Butker, who's a rookie started last week against the Titans. Both guys connected for a field goal apiece and combined to go 3/3 on extra points.
Slot receiver competition. Damiere Byrd was the player of the game in the opener against the Texans. He caught two touchdowns in that game and we all anointed him a lock to make the roster. However, the completion continues and Russell Sheppard, Brenton Bersin and Trevor Graham all still have a shot. Rivera needs to find someone not only fast, which Byrd clearly is, but also durable and reliable.