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On Thursday night, the Carolina Panthers traveled to Buffalo to take on the Bills in the first exhibition of the 2018 preseason. Carolina came out victorious, coming from behind to win 28-23. As covered in this game preview, these two teams have a lot in common.

This had the feel of a family reunion. Many players and coaches greeted each other before the game, embracing and laughing on the sideline. But there’s always that estranged family member at Thanksgiving dinner who doesn’t want to be there. The focus of the night was not so much on the action as it was on the confrontation between Panthers quarterback Cam Newton and former Panthers (now Bills) wideout (and I mean wide) Kelvin Benjamin.

What can you make of this interaction? It seems pretty obvious to me that Cam is trying to make peace with his old teammate, following Benjamin’s comments from earlier in the week. Benjamin decided to continue to act like a child who didn’t get his way, shaking Newton off and denying him a handshake. What a man. Anyone who is going to make the comments that Benjamin made should be ready to face the aftermath of their choices. Kelvin proved once again that he is incapable of handling adversity in a mature manner. It’s sad to see. Hopefully, for his sake, he can figure this out. It seems to be bigger than football.

The Good:

Rookies Shine

The Panthers 2018 rookie class looked ready to contribute on Thursday night.

Here’s first-round pick D.J. Moore showing why he was the first receiver drafted this year:

Rookies on the defensive side, Donte Jackson, Rashaan Gaulden, and Jermaine Carter all had solid nights respectively. Nothing to complain about here yet. 

Offense Looks Strong and Balanced

Although it is preseason and new Panthers offensive coordinator Norv Turner isn’t going to show his hand, the offense we saw on Thursday night felt refreshing. The play-calling was balanced and a lot of different guys got involved early on. Cam was able to connect on six out of nine passes and spread the ball around nicely to five different receivers.

Second-year tailback Christian McCaffery was able to bring down a couple catches and show off all five pounds he added in the off-season, scoring between the tackles on a goal-line run. The pieces are there for this offense to run well in a good system. It’ll be interesting to see how Turner puts it all together come week one.

Shaq Thompson

The year of 54 has begun. After turning heads all week in practice making a couple of spectacular interceptions, linebacker Shaq Thompson was able to do it again on Thursday. On a tipped Nathan Peterman pass Thompson dove all out to secure this interception:

Thompson was the top graded player for the Panthers according to Pro Football Focus, where he garnered a 91.4 clip. Here’s to hoping he can ride this momentum into the regular season where he will start in place of suspended Thomas Davis. 

The Bad

Kevon Seymour

Ugh. This one stung, which makes the poor performance of Kevon Seymour stand out even more. On the Bills first drive alone, Seymour gave up three completions including a touchdown and committed a pass interference penalty. This is not what you want to see out of a starting corner. Seymour will either need to step up his game significantly or give up his spot to rookie Donte Jackson. Either way, this is not an ideal situation for the Panthers secondary.

Garrett Gilbert

Garrett Gilbert has been given a golden opportunity to take the backup quarterback job in Carolina. On Thursday, he didn’t help his case. Gilbert’s stat line turned out looking solid after throwing a laser to wide receiver Mose Frazier for a 26-yard touchdown, finishing 7/12 with 93 yards. The problem with Gilbert was his consistency, missing several open throws and taking a nine-yard sack. For Gilbert’s sake, he better come back strong next week. Taylor Heinecke had a strong performance, albeit against third stringers. The answer at backup quarterback may still be someone who isn’t currently even on the roster. 

The Ugly

It was a good win, can’t harp them much here. Kelvin Benjamin is ugly.

Prediction Review

Let’s revisit my predictions from the recap:

Predicted Score: Panthers 23 Bills 16

Actual Score: Panthers 28 Bills 23

 I’m happy with this. I’ll get it one day.

Predicted Offensive MVP: Damiere Byrd (six catches, 78 yards and a TD with a bird flap)

Actual Offensive MVP: D.J. Moore (four catches, 75 yards)

Panthers fans have a lot to be excited for in first-round pick D.J. Moore. Moore showcased all of the skills he has been praised for throughout camp. On a play negated by a hold, Moore took a tunnel screen for a big gain and showed great ability to make guys miss after the catch. He was also able to bail out backup Heinecke on a wild toss up for 32 yards. The future looks bright soft-spokent spoken kid out of Maryland.

Predicted Defensive MVP: Donte Jackson (two PBUs, four shit-talks and some really nice makeup speed (he’s fast!))

Actual Defensive MVP: Jermaine Carter(three tackles, one sack, one tackle for loss)

Jackson’s name didn’t come up very often in this game. When you’re a defensive back in this league, a lot of the time this is a good thing. Linebacker Jermaine Carter was flying around in the second half. He was able to make his first NFL sack.

If Carter keeps this play up, he may not only make the roster, but make a significant impact on special teams and possibly see some time at linebacker.

BONUS PREDICTION:

LFP: Least Fitting Player – Kelvin Benjamin in his own jersey

This was my most accurate prediction this week.

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View the original article on Last Word On Pro Football: Carolina Panthers-Buffalo Bills Preseason Week One Review: It’s Good to Have Moore