Last week against the Miami Dolphins, the Carolina Panthers’ offensive starters ran 21 plays before taking a seat for the night.
Head coach Ron Rivera looks to increase that total Sunday night in a nationally televised exhibition against the New York Jets, and said his starters may even play into the second half.
“Ideally, we try to put a number on it anywhere between 36-45 (plays),” Rivera said. “And you feel really good about that, especially if you play well. If we can emulate what we did in the first half last week and kind of dragged into the third quarter, I’d be very pleased with that. Realistically, who knows? But at least until the third quarter.”
The starters were supposed to see 25 plays, or about one half of play, against the Dolphins. But the Carolina offense had its way with Miami, going field goal-touchdown-touchdown on its first three drives to take a 17-0 lead at the end of the first quarter.
Rivera said he felt no obligation to play his starters for a specific number of plays.
“If they come out and play 36 good plays and we see a lot of good things like we did the other night, we’ll pull them out. If we don’t play 36 good plays and we want to go one more series, we’ll go one more series,” Rivera said. “If it feels like they’re making progress and being consistent, we’ll make decisions based on that.”
DAVIS’ WORK INCREASING: Linebacker Thomas Davis practiced in full pads on Wednesday with the special teams unit as he recovers from a strained calf.
Davis has not participated in either of the Panthers’ preseason games, but Rivera has increased the eight-year veteran’s workload in practice.
“Thomas is looking really good,” Rivera said. “We’re pretty confident in what he’s been doing and very glad to see that stuff. He looked good with the first bunch (on special teams). We’ve increased his workload an awful lot and he’s doing a great job with it.
“The thing that Thomas has done is that he’s basically erased (the fear of re-injury) from his mind. When you talk to him about playing again, that’s the least of his concerns. He really wants to get back on the field and play hard and have fun again. And I’m excited to see him.”
Fellow linebacker Jon Beason ran on the treadmill Wednesday but did not participate in drills as he nurses a hamstring injury. Rivera was less optimistic on Beason’s return to the lineup this preseason.
“We’d rather err on the safe side,” Rivera said.
MRUCZKOWSKI GONE: The Panthers terminated the center Scott Mruczkowski’s contract after two days. The split was mutual as Mruczkowski, who had been with San Diego since 2005, will retire, Rivera said. The team won’t replace him on the roster because the first roster cuts (from 90 players to 75) are set for Monday.
• The Panthers are taking a very close look at the kicking competition between veteran Olindo Mare and Justin Medlock. A team videographer was on the field filming the field goal portion of practice on the kicking specialist’s field.
• Rivera, a documented opponent of HBO’s “Hard Knocks,” said he did not watch Tuesday night’s episode that chronicled the Miami Dolphins’ week leading up to and during their visit to Bank of America Stadium.
• Rivera has not seen the Jets use the Wildcat this preseason with Tim Tebow, and he said if they haven’t used it yet, they likely won’t until the regular season begins in September.