Instant analysis from Panthers-Jaguars on Thursday:
1. Derek Anderson is losing his grip on the No. 2 QB job.
While most of the focus Thursday was rightly on Cam Newton, the Panthers’ backup QB situation became a topic of conversation after another poor outing by Derek Anderson. The 34-year-old Anderson looked awful against the Jags, forcing passes into coverage, missing receivers and posting a passer rating of 38.5, which was worse than last week’s 46.5 vs. the Titans.
Joe Webb, who made plays with his arm and feet in the first two preseason games, was not available Thursday due to shoulder soreness. But with their starting quarterback coming off shoulder surgery, the Panthers better make sure they have a No. 2 quarterback in which they’re confident.
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Anderson has done little to inspire confidence of late.
2. The Panthers tried hard to turn Curtis Samuel loose.
Newton wasn’t the only key offensive player making his preseason debut. Pro Bowl center Ryan Kalil started and played the first series, while Samuel saw action after being sidelined throughout training camp at Wofford with a hamstring injury.
Mike Shula looked like he was trying to make up for lost time with Samuel. The second-round wideout from Ohio State, was targeted six times, most of which were quick hitters out on the edge.
Samuel finished with four catches for 15 yards, and a long catch of 7 yards. Those are pedestrian numbers, but it was signficant work for a player who – like Christian McCaffrey – was drafted to help evolve the offense.
3. A couple of ‘bubble’ guys had big nights.
Cameron Artis-Payne ran angry for the second week in a row, making his case for a spot on the 53-man roster. Artis-Payne is thought to be behind Fozzy Whittaker in the pecking order, but he’s impressed with his bruising running style the past two games. Artis-Payne had nine carries for 37 yards and touchdowns.
On the defensive side, second-year cornerback Zack Sanchez had a huge game. Sanchez, the forgotten man among the Three Amigos corner trio, made a beautiful pick of a Blake Bortles pass, got to his feet and weaved his way 48 yards on the return. Sanchez later stretched out to break up a pass, and surely made up some ground on Cole Luke and others fighting for the last CB spots.