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Panthers have to be “smart” about playing starters

With a season that saw extremely high hopes crumble almost in the rearview mirror, the Carolina Panthers have one more game left to play. In Week 17, the Panthers will play in their final game of 2018, and get a head start on preparing for 2019. And part of that preparation, of course, means ensuring nothing happens to the players the Panthers are counting on.

Speaking concerning whether or not his starters, such as running back Christian McCaffrey, middle linebacker Luke Kuechly, and others will play in Week 17’s game, head coach Ron Rivera stated that the Panthers would have to be “smart” about how they approached trotting their starters out to play – talking instead about playing some of the team’s younger players.

“We’ll be evaluating for this last game, we’ll be evaluating for the season,” said Rivera. “We want to be able to have some stuff to go back on on some of these young guys.”

Though Rivera cautioned that the Panthers needed to be honest and realistic about their exact position, Rivera stated that the first priority for the Panthers will be to try and close their season out with a victory in Week 17.

“We do have to approach it that this is any other week,” said Rivera. “You prepare to play football, you prepare to win a football game. And then you go from there.”

Some of the young players that Rivera mentioned include wide receivers like D.J. Moore and Curtis Samuel, as well as tight ends Ian Thomas and Chris Manhertz.

“Guys like that are guys that can help you going down the road,” said Rivera. “These are guys that we’ve got to continue to put out there on the field and continue to watch them develop.”

Though much has been made of the promising young skill players the Panthers have on offense, the team got an opportunity to take a closer look at two of the younger players on their defense: Safety Rashaan Gaulden, and linebacker Jermaine Carter.

Speaking concerning the way Carter played in an expanded role in relief of Shaq Thompson, Rivera stated that he was pleased overall with the performance of his fifth-round draft pick.

“I thought he did some really good things,” said Rivera. “There was one play in particular (where) they ran a stretch play that bounced outside, and with his athleticism he chased it down. You see the glimpses of what he’s capable of as a football player.”

In addition, Rivera also stated that he believed Gaulden played well in his opportunities (Rivera had been questioned on Sunday about how Gaulden entered the game following a blown coverage by Mike Adams that resulted in a touchdown, to which he stated that Gaulden was slated to rotate in and his entering the game had nothing to do with the play surrendered by Adams).

“In the position we are, you do have to watch these young guys and have got to give them opportunities,” said Rivera. ‘We’ll look to do that next week, obviously.”

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