Carolina Panthers

Wide receivers face spotlight in Panthers exhibition opener vs. Bills

Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton (1) throws downfield during Wednesday’s morning practice at Wofford College in Spartanburg. Newton is expected to play the first quarter on Friday against Buffalo in the exhibition opener.
Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton (1) throws downfield during Wednesday’s morning practice at Wofford College in Spartanburg. Newton is expected to play the first quarter on Friday against Buffalo in the exhibition opener. dtfoster@charlotteobserver.com

Carolina Panthers coach Ron Rivera looks forward to watching the receiving competition begin to shake out Friday at Buffalo, although the candidates for those last couple of wide receiver spots likely won’t get much time with quarterback Cam Newton.

Rivera plans to use Newton and the other starters for the first quarter Friday before sending in the second- and third-teamers. That’s typical for a first exhibition.

“We’ll take (Newton) into the first quarter and we’ll evaluate it and go from there,” Rivera said Wednesday.

Several players will be sidelined Friday, including defensive end Charles Johnson (left calf), defensive tackle Star Lotulelei (right foot) and offensive lineman Amini Silatolu (right calf). Rivera said he and the training staff will discuss the status of defensive tackle Kawann Short, who’s missed all but two training camp practices with back spasms.

Rivera raved about the increased competition at receiver before camp started, and the first 10 practices at Wofford did nothing to change his mind.

“We’ve got five or six or seven guys right now that are battling,” Rivera said. “We really haven’t projected anybody as clear-cut, top five or six. But we’ve got a group of guys that are showing every day. They flash constantly.”

Kelvin Benjamin, Devin Funchess and Ted Ginn Jr. appear to be shoo-ins to make the team. But there’s a crowd fighting for the final few spots, a group that includes Jerricho Cotchery, Corey Brown, Brenton Bersin, Mike Brown, Jarrett Boykin and Damiere Byrd.

Joseph Person: 704-358-5123, @josephperson

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