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NFL: AUG 06 Carolina Panthers Training Camp

Source: Icon Sportswire / Getty

By Sharon Thorsland

We’ll get our first look at the 2023 Panthers and Bryce Young on Saturday as they welcome the New York Jets to Bank of America Stadium. Kick-off is set for 4:00. With a new coaching staff, a rookie quarterback and plenty of other new faces, it’s a new era in Carolina. The starters will play in this one, although coach Frank Reich isn’t sure for how long. But he’s looking forward to seeing them in action as they adjust to new schemes. “The Jets are a really good team. Obviously they’ve got an elite quarterback, a very talented offense, and one of the better defenses in the NFL. So it will be a good test for us.”

That elite quarterback, of course, is Aaron Rodgers. The longtime Packer and future Hall of Famer joined the Jets in an off-season trade and immediately raised expectations for a team that is enduring a 12-year playoff drought and is coming off a 7-10 finish last season. Rodgers likely won’t be on the field tonight after already working with the Panthers in joint practices this week. Instead if will be former starter Zach Wilson and Tim Boyle sharing reps. They’ll have their hands full with the Panthers rush defense, which just got a boost with the addition of Pro Bowler Justin Houston to team with Brian Burns.

Whoever is running the Jets offense, they’ll have a talented bunch of receivers to work with, including last season’s Offensive Rookie of the Year Garrett Wilson and two of Rodgers’ favorite Packers targets, Randall Cobb and 6’5 Alan Lazard. “They’ve got a good receiving corps over there,” said Panthers cornerback Jaycee Horn. “It’ll be a fun battle.”

With second year running back Breece Hall still recovering from a torn ACL, a pair of former ACC standouts anchor the Jets running attack. Former Tar Heel Michael Carter and NC State’s Bam Knight will team with rookie Izzy Abanikanda.

While the Jets offense was anemic last season, their defense was lights out. A fast and physical group, they ranked fourth in the NFL in points allowed and total defense, and were third in passing defense. Nine out of eleven starters are back, including All-Pro defensive tackle Quinnen Williams, who had 12 of the team’s 45 sacks last season. Edge rusher Carl Lawson and linebacker CJ Mosley are play makers, and the secondary features the reigning Defensive Rookie of the Year in cornerback Sauce Gardner. After earning All-Pro honors in his first season, Gardner has already established himself as one o the top lock down corners in the league. Fellow cornerback Brandon Echols picked off Bryce Young in practice Wednesday, and they’ll likely be out to rattle the rookie even more in the game. It will be interesting to see how he fares against a defense that Panthers tight end Hayden Hurst says “brings it.”

The Panthers already got plenty of good work in with the Jets this week, and Reich says he likes where his team is at this point in the preseason. But he’s looking for some specific things in the game as they open preseason play. “You just want to see consistency in execution and you want to see play making,” said Reich. “Those are the two things that it takes to win.” We’ll see how this Panthers squad stacks up Saturday Night!