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Three things for Panthers preseason finale against Bills

The starters for the Carolina Panthers will play one quarter against the Buffalo Bills in the preseason finale Friday night.


Matt Rhule announced that in the first quarter of Friday's game starters like Baker Mayfield, Ikem Ekwonu and Austin Corbett.


The Bills present a much tougher than the week one Cleveland Browns that the Panthers face Sept. 11. Nonetheless this is the best opportunity to get starters who were inactive in preseason to get up to game speed.


While this is preseason this is critical for Carolina to assess the new talent brought in this offseason and evaluate where the team is before the regular season.



Here are three of the biggest things that Carolina needs to watch for, in no order.


Jaycee Horn and the broken foot

Cornerback Jaycee Horn was taken eighth in the 2021 NFL Draft. He played just three games before he broke his foot in that same season.


It is not certain that Horn takes the field in the preseason finale, but it will be his first game of the preseason. Horn's increased snap count as practices trends in the right direction as he reported soreness in that same foot at the beginning of camp.


The big thing if he plays, how he impacts the game and how he catches up to the game after being out of it for so long. The other huge factor is his health, the biggest even, the Panthers must closely watch how Horn does on that right foot.



If Horn plays, it will be only for that one quarter, but health and game adjustment is something everyone should monitor. If practice is any indication, Horn shows promise that he will be a threat in the secondary as he picked off Mayfield in practice.



The offense under Baker Mayfield

Matt Rhule announced Monday that Baker Mayfield starts week one against the Cleveland Browns. Tuesday's practice showed some early trouble signs as Mayfield fumbled and threw an interception.


But Friday is the best opportunity to see how Mayfield handles the offense. No less against a stout Bills team, so this is a huge test, but a big chance to adjust for the Carolina offense.

While wide receiver Robbie Anderson and running back Christian McCaffrey are unlikely to play, the offense rolls out its' best receivers and linemen. This will be the best chance to see how it all blends together. Reports from practices and camp from Augusta Stone of the team website indicate that Mayfield and wide receiver DJ Moore developed a good rapport. Moore is one of the most consistent targets.



The offense played abysmal in 2021, so this is the best chance to see any improvement early before the season.



The offensive line

Harped on all offseason and every preseason game, the offensive line.


When two players signed with the Panthers and the sixth overall pick was for the o-line, there is good reason to watch how this line comes together.


Regarded as the worst, or second-worst depending on who you ask, the Panthers desperately needed to bolster the line for the QB's sake and McCaffrey's sake.


Austin Corbett and Bradley Bozeman figure to play that first quarter. Also, Ekwonu, who will be interesting to watch as he continues his development, will play beside Brady Christensen. The new look of the line is drawing a lot of attention because of the huge overhaul. Taylor Moton figures into the mix as well, which was the best lineman for Carolina in 2021.

Arguably, the biggest thing will be this line because of how the Panthers approached the offseason.

All of this comes to a head when Carolina takes on Buffalo Friday night kickoff scheduled at 7:00.