Panthers rookie WR Kelvin Benjamin continues to impress with his strong hands and ability to fight for the ball in traffic.
Friday’s preseason game between the Patriots and Panthers was a tale of two teams: one is a defending division champion that has only gotten better, while the other is a defending division champion trying to regain its footing after gutting its offensive roster in the offseason and having star QB Cam Newton recover from ankle surgery.
Here are the important takeaways from the preseason game between the Patriots and the Panthers:
QB Tom Brady is not slowing down at all – Even at age 37, Tom Brady is showing no signs of slowing down or struggling to move with the pocket as he continues his dominance in the AFC. Brady went 17 of 21 for 204 yards and 2 TDs in the first half plus one drive in the third quarter and continues to make plays with relatively unknown commodities at receivers as Rob Gronkowski continues his rehab from surgery.
TE Rob Gronkowski is still not ready – Despite returning to practice, Gronk was deactivated for the dress rehearsal game against the Panthers and is unlikely to start in the preseason finale. While there is every reason to believe that Gronkowski will be ready for the start of the regular season, one can only speculate as to whether he will really be back to playing form and if his body can continue to hold up with the style of bruising receiving that he plays.
QB Cam Newton is really struggling with his feet – The Panthers QB who is such a threat because of his ability to make great plays with his legs struggled against the Patriots, getting sacked twice and only making three scrambles despite averaging more than 7 per game in his career. Obviously Newton’s ankle is not fully healed from surgery, which is part of why Panther head coach Ron Rivera told the media he intends to play his starters in the preseason finale. Whether or not Newton will be among the starters or will rest remains to be seen,
WR Kelvin Benjamin is the team’s best starting receiver – The Panthers pickup of Kelvin Benjamin in the 1st round of the 2014 NFL draft was criticized because of his slow 40-time and lack of polish, but he is justifying the pick with his tremendous hands. In the last two games Benjamin has made some very impressive catches purely with his hands and in traffic no less. With so many receivers that lack talent let alone star power on the team, it is likely that Benjamin will be the Panthers best option in 2014.