Carolina takes on Chicago in the first preseason game for both squads from Soldier Field on Thursday night at 8pmET. The Panthers finished with a 7-9 record last season, while the Bears are coming off a strong 12-4 campaign.
All about Cam
Cam Newton is now 30 years old, which isn’t really that old for an NFL quarterback. But he’s had two surgeries in less than three years on his throwing shoulder. Last season, with Norv Turner in the fold as the offensive coordinator, he completed a career-high 67.9 percent of his passes for 3,395 yards with 24 TDs and 13 picks. Christian McCaffrey was his top target with 107 catches for 867 yards and the top runner with 1,098 yards and seven scores. That’s a lot of touches for a 210-pound back without a true compliment. Newton also has two talented, young wideouts in D.J. Moore and Curtis Samuel, along with veterans Torrey Smith and Chris Hogan (from New England). They did draft Jordan Scarlett out of Florida in the fifth round and he’ll get some work in preseason to prove he can push for the backup job with Cameron Artis-Payne.
Don’t expect to see much of Newton, if at all in preseason. There will be a lot of work for rookie Will Grier from West Virginia along with Kyle Allen and Taylor Heinicke.
Newton will sit out this game as confirmed by Ron Rivera.
“It’s just to be careful,” Rivera said. “There are a lot of things that we want to see from the young guys. By doing that, we give Kyle (Allen) an opportunity right off the bat. We’re going to have a few more games where his reps are certainly going to be limited. Everything we are doing with Cam has been mapped out and everything is fine. Norv (Turner) and Scott (Turner) have sat down and talked things over with (head athletic trainer) Ryan Vermillion. Again, we are just going through the next step in the process.”
Defensively, the Panthers were solid last season, but they need to improve on pass defense. They ranked 15th overall and 12th against the run (112.8ypg). LB Luke Kuechly (130 stops) is back along with DE Mario Addison (9 sacks). They drafted DE Brian Burns from Florida State in the first round to improve a pass rush that ranked just 27th in the league last season.
Rolling with Mitch
Mitch Trubisky was a game-manager in his first season at the helm at quarterback but rookie coach Matt Nagy helped guide him to a much-improved second season. The former North Carolina star threw for 3,223 yards with 24 TDs and 12 picks, while rushing for 421 yards. Running back Jordan Howard led the Bears with 935 yards, but he’s off to Philadelphia in free agency. That means more time for speedster Tarik Cohen (444 yds rushing, 725 yds passing). Seattle running back Mike Davis comes in to help though rookie David Montgomery, a third-round pick from Iowa State, is 225 pounds and has the ability to break tackles.
On defense, the Bears added Ha Ha Clinton Dix (14 picks in five seasons) as a free agent to help the secondary out. They were one of the best defenses in the NFL, allowing just 299.7 yards per game (3rd) and 80 yards against the run (1st). The addition of Khalil Mack from Oakland turned a good defense into a great one. Mack is one of the league’s top pass rushers, who rushed for 12.5 sacks in 14 games with six forced fumbles. LB Roquan Smith is another playmaker, who had five sacks and a team-best 121 tackles as a rookie.
- 16-5-1 ATS last 22 home games.
- 2-6 ATS last 8 overall.
- 1-4 ATS last 5 road games.