With the Panthers playoff chances all but gone – they’re less than 1% and won’t get over 10% even if Carolina wins out – the team has made the decision to put Cam Newton on the bench for this – and likely next – weekend’s game and to place Shaq Thompson on injured reserve as they start to look ahead towards 2019; while players will talk about division rivals and playing for pride, the last thing anyone wants to happen is a major injury in what may amount to a meaningless game. And coaches will want to get a look at some of the players on the roster that haven’t played much this season to see what they’ve got heading into 2019 – that’s why you may begin to see more from younger players in the Panthers’ home finale.
“We’ve got some young guys that will play a little bit more, just an opportunity for us to take a look at them and we’ll see how things go,” said Ron Rivera Thursday.
One of those young players is linebacker Jermaine Carter, Jr., who the Panthers drafted in the fifth round of this year’s draft and had an excellent showing in the preseason before heading to the bench for much of the season with Luke Kuechly, Thomas Davis and Shaq Thompson on the depth chart ahead of him. With Thompson out for the final two games of the season, the Panthers will get a chance to see what they have in the young linebacker.
“Jermaine will get an opportunity to play a little bit more; it’ll be exciting to watch him as well,” said Rivera when asked about younger players getting game action. “He’s a young guy who I think has a bright future in this league.”
Christian McCaffrey wasn’t at a cold and rainy practice today, and after playing every single snap for the past five games, he likely deserves a day off.
“I think a big part of it has to do with the accumulation of the season; he’s done a lot, he’s one of those guys [that is] very valuable,” said Rivera. “He stays on the field a lot – for the most part, it’s something that we’ll most certainly have to look at once we get into the preseason and talk about how we want to handle it going forward.”
Does this mean that the youth movement will extend to the running back rotation and we’ll see more of Cameron Artis-Payne, Alex Armah or Kenjon Barner on Sunday?
“I think a lot of it does [depend] on what Norv calls and I think a lot of it is when [Turner] gets into a rhythm, he sticks with what he’s doing and we’ll see – it could be – I don’t want to say something that’s going to hinder the playcaller.”
Check out the full injury report below:
|Cam Newton||Right Shoulder||None||Taylor Heinicke will start Week 16.|