Carolina Panthers

Against former Patriots teammates, Chris Hogan has shot to prove his worth to Panthers

For any Panthers fan traveling to New England this week, let Chris Hogan handle your restaurant recommendations.

“Anywhere in South End (in Boston),” Hogan suggested after practice Monday. “There’s some good Italian spots around there.”

Hogan should know, since he spent the past three seasons with the Patriots. During that time, he won two Super Bowls and lost another — aka, he got the full Patriots experience in that short three-year run before signing a one-year contract to come to Carolina back in April.

But now, as the Panthers and Patriots prepare to play in the third week of the preseason — when starters from both teams will participate, including Carolina quarterback Cam Newton — Hogan gets to make his return. It won’t be the first time he plays New England, having done so previously as a member of the Buffalo Bills, but it will be his first as an ex-Pat.

“I’ll know the plays,” Hogan joked Monday. “It’ll be interesting to see. I lived that life for four years (as their opponent) when I was in Buffalo.

“They’re going to come out and compete for four quarters — preseason, regular season, whatever it is. You know, they’re competitors so it’ll be a good game.”

Carolina Panthers wide receiver Chris Hogan can be a valuable possession target for quarterback Cam Newton. Jeff Siner

For the Panthers, Hogan’s previous experience can be an asset. For example, if the Panthers sign a former Saints player, there’s something of an expectation that player can help when game-planning for New Orleans. Hogan’s impact won’t be as substantial given Thursday’s 7:30 p.m. kickoff is an exhibition, but coach Ron Rivera said Hogan’s time there can still be beneficial.

“It is (an advantage), because if there’s anything you get, you get a good feel for the intensity and tempo they play, and that’s one of the things I think is really good about playing a team like this,” Rivera said. “You have to be ready for it. We’ve really pushed our guys and tried to get our guys to understand this is one of those types of teams.”

As for what Hogan is expecting?

“They know and I know, when it comes down to playing football, it’s football. We can talk afterwards,” Hogan said. “That’s kind of the mentality those guys have. It’ll be fun to see those guys though.”

Hogan has never had more than 680 yards or five touchdowns in a season, both marks he hit in New England. But on this Panthers offense, he won’t be expected to carry the load. With as many weapons as Newton has at his disposal — DJ Moore, Curtis Samuel, Christian McCaffrey and Greg Olsen, to name a few — Hogan will just need to play within himself. That means being the dependable possession receiver he has been the last five seasons: the guy with an average of 13.5 yards per reception.

Doing that, along with some work on special teams, should be enough to earn him a roster spot. Helping Hogan’s case is that coaches and teammates have both raved about his leadership since the day he arrived.

Chris Hogan (15) spent the last three seasons in New England, winning two Super Bowls and losing a third during that time. Kevin Hoffman USA TODAY Sports

And Thursday, when he’ll best need to display his on- and off-field contributions, he’ll be doing so against his former team.

Not that it bothers him.

“We’re still in training camp. You know, this is still a learning process for us all, and we’re trying to figure out what kind of team we’re going to be,” Hogan said. “(We’ll) use these preseason games as kind of a measuring stick here to see where we’re at, and I think that’ll be a good test of us this week.”

Brendan Marks is a general assignment sports reporter for the Charlotte Observer covering the Carolina Panthers, Charlotte Hornets, NASCAR and more. He graduated from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and has worked for the Observer since August 2017.
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