Panthers vs. Bills: 3 Key Matchups to Watch

During the regular season we will look at key matchups for the Carolina Panthers that they will need to win to put them in position to win the game. During the preseason though winning the game isn't as important as figuring out a team's best starting lineup. We take a look at three key training camp battles between Panthers to watch against the Buffalo Bills.

Tre Boston vs. Kurt Coleman

It seems safe to say that Roman Harper is going to be one of the two starting safeties in Week 1 however who he plays next to is very much in the air. On the Carolina Panthers “unofficial” depth chart, Boston is listed as the team’s starting free safety next to Harper.

However, for a majority of training camp Coleman has been getting snaps at strong safety with Roman Harper sliding over to the free safety position. This is a bit of a surprise considering Harper has primarily played strong safety most of his career.

Last year, Boston was inserted into the starting lineup about halfway through the season and played pretty well. He is entering this season with high expectations because of the way he was able to step in as a rookie and contribute to the turnaround for this defense.

Meanwhile, Coleman is looking to revive his career after two quiet seasons as a part-time starter. He is back playing for defensive coordinator Sean McDermott, who he played great under while both were with the Philadelphia Eagles. This is going to be one battle that is probably not going to be won or lost after one preseason game but a strong performance by either will certainly get them in the right direction.

 

Fozzy Whittaker vs. Cameron Artis-Payne

The backup running back position is going to be very important to this Panthers’ defense because of the fact that they want to run the ball a great deal. The team does have Jonathan Stewart who can be the primary running back but even though he can be, the coaching staff may not necessarily want him to be. Stewart has had injury issues in the past and it is going to be important to keep him healthy over the entire season.

This then brings up who is going to back up Stewart with the departure of DeAngelo Williams. On the depth chart Fozzy Whittaker is listed as the second running back while rookie Cameron Artis-Payne is down to fourth.

This is one position that I don’t put much stock into the depth chart. I believe this is more of a message to all rookies that they will have to earn their playing time. There may not be a clear cut back up as these two running backs bring different skill sets.

Artis-Payne was a workhorse for the Auburn Tigers a season ago, carrying the ball over 300 times and certainly can be the same kind of grind it out back for the Panthers. Meanwhile, Whittaker is the change of pace back who can get into the open space and make a play out of the backfield. It will be interesting to see how the carries and touches breakdown between these two.

 

Brenton Bersin vs. Jarrett Boykin

The last position battle is going to be between Brenton Bersin and Jarrett Boykin and this is much different than the first two. The biggest difference between this battle and the other ones is the fact that whoever loses this battle, may also find himself off the team’s 53-man roster.

The Panthers have incredible depth at the wide receiver position and the competition has been rather impressive so far in camp. There hasn’t been too many negatives to speak of and the biggest criticism of these two wide receivers is they haven’t done anything to stand out.

Brenton Bersin is a possession wide receiver who started to see more playing time at wide receiver towards the end of the season when the team was thin at wide receiver. He didn’t really seize the opportunity and is an average wide receiver who has a limited ceiling.

Meanwhile, Boykin had an incredible stretch of six games in 2013 when he replaced an injured Randall Cobb on the Green Bay Packers. He was expected to be the team’s third wide receiver last year but lost the job to rookie Davante Adams. This is a battle Boykin should run away with but really hasn’t been able to yet this training camp. This would be a great chance for him to solidify himself as a wide receiver who deserves a roster spot.

Follow me on Twitter @BrandonCroce.

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