After seeing no action in the first preseason game against the Colts and very limited action this past weekend against the Ravens, the Panthers' starters are expecting to play close to a full half this Friday when they host the Steelers.
With the preseason being shortened to three games, it changed the philosophy of a lot of coaches and how they handle playing time for their top 22. When asked why none of them appeared in the first preseason game, head coach Matt Rhule said that three games in 12 days was a lot and didn't want those guys to take extra hits.
New starting quarterback Sam Darnold made his debut on Saturday and went 1/2 for 14 yards on just one series. The lone completion was to his former Jets teammate, Robby Anderson. Meanwhile, the lone incompletion was a ball that Darnold decided to throw away through the back of the end zone to avoid a coverage sack.
When asked exactly how much the starters will play, Rhule answered, "I'm not really prepared to say much other than that my hope is that it's more than a quarter, closer to a half. I always hate saying those things and then things happen during the week but my preference would be that our ones would play a good half of football."
That is, however, everyone except running back Christian McCaffrey who will likely sit out this week's game as well as a precautionary measure.
"Christian will be very, very limited as he has been in pretty much every preseason," Rhule said. "He's going to take a lot of hits during the season, more than anyone else out there on the field so we'll save those hits for the season."
After missing 13 games a year ago to ankle, shoulder, and thigh injuries, it's probably the right move to let him sit out the entire preseason. The Panthers already know the kind of player he is and what he offers in both the run and pass game. Playing running back is a demanding position and can take a toll on the body. As Rhule mentioned, he's going to absorb a lot of hits throughout the year, there's no use of adding on to that when they don't have to. Plus, this will give guys like Spencer Brown and Darius Clark more opportunities to make their final case in hopes of stealing a spot on the 53-man roster.
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