Panthers fans shouldn’t draw too many lasting conclusions from the preseason opener, but there were valuable lessons to learn against the Bills.
Ron Rivera is absolutely right. The most important thing about preseason games is escaping them without serious injury. The Panthers appeared to do that last night, but that wasn’t the only lesson from the team’s 28-23 victory over the Bills.
Winning the game is great, but it’s not the primary objective for anyone involved. Preseason games are useful scrimmages. They serve as opportunities for players to impress their coaches in a true, competitive environment. Several Panthers players really took their chance on Thursday night.
We’ll take a look at three things the Panthers learned in their preseason opener. We start with a wide receiver who could be moving from the fringes of the roster towards meaningful playing time.
3. Curtis Samuel can contribute
When the Panthers drafted Samuel in the second round last season they hoped he would really add some explosiveness to the Carolina offense. Unfortunately, he was largely a non-factor in 2017. Injuries limited him to just 15 catches for 115 yards.
The fact that he entered this preseason battling injuries didn’t help his cause any. Samuel wasn’t a full participant in training camp when it opened. That’s forcing him to play a little bit of catch up in the eyes of new offensive coordinator Norv Turner.
The team’s decision to draft D.J. Moore, trade for Torrey Smith and sign Jarius Wright via free agency gave some fans the idea that Samuel might be on the outside of the roster looking in. Judging from his performance last night that definitely isn’t the case.
The former Ohio State star didn’t get meaningful playing time with the first team, but he did end the game with four catches for 43 yards. That’s a significant step in the right direction for Samuel. He still isn’t a lock to receive significant playing time in 2018, but this preseason effort gives him something to build on.