When the Carolina Panthers face the Chicago Bears in their preseason opener on Friday in Carolina, it will give fans the first look at this year’s version of Panthers quarterback Cam Newton, who many think will have a breakout season in 2013.
Carolina’s 24-year-old signal-caller will obviously see limited action, but will take enough snaps to be tested by one of the premier defenses in the NFL — albeit one that is now without future Hall of Fame linebacker Brian Urlacher, who retired in May after 13 seasons (all with Chicago).
One of the guys the Bears will lean on to replace Urlacher’s leadership is defensive end Julius Peppers, who spent eight seasons with the Panthers before signing with Chicago in March 2010.
The middle of the defense isn’t too shabby this year either, as Lance Briggs and former Panther James Anderson — who signed with the Bears in March after seven seasons in Carolina — make up two-thirds of Chicago’s linebacking corps. Rookie Jon Bostic will start in place of the injured D.J. Williams at middle linebacker, with both having pretty good chances to fill the starting role when the regular season begins.
But Newton is the real story, and Panthers fans know it. While they’ll see some familiar faces line up across from the third-year pro, they will also hope to see a flashback to Newton’s rookie year, when he shattered all kinds of rookie records and was named to the Pro Bowl.
He has obviously grown up some since then, and will look to prove it this season as he is one of the Panthers who faces a make-or-break season in 2013.
The journey begins on Friday in Carolina.