Carolina is a team headed in the right direction. It boasts one of the most promising players in the league in Cam Newton, and if the Panthers press the right buttons over the next few years, they’ll be a Super Bowl contender.
Miami would love to mirror the Panthers’ blueprint on getting back on the right track. After a roller-coaster ride of an offseason, the Dolphins will likely struggle to show as many flashes of brilliance as Carolina did in 2011.
Here’s everything you need to know about their matchup.
Where: Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte, North Carolina
When: Friday, August 17 at 8:00 p.m. EDT
Watch: NFL Preseason Live
Listen: Sirius XM Radio: 94 or online at NFL Audio Pass
Betting Line: Carolina by 4, according to Bovada
What’s At Stake
For the 'Phins, Matt Moore and rookie Ryan Tannehill will compete for the starting quarterback job. David Garrard looked like he’d start Week 1 in Miami, but then he suffered an injury.
After Chad Johnson’s release, playing time at wideout will also be up for grabs.
For Carolina, its defense must show signs of improvement, or the Panthers won’t be true contenders for a playoff spot this season.
And, of course, plenty of undrafted players will attempt to scratch and claw their way to a roster spot.
Dolphins Injury Report
According to ESPN, wide receiver Brian Hartline is out with a calf injury. That won’t help their already-thin receiving corps look any better.
Defensive end Tony McDaniel and running back Marcus Thigpen are also questionable.
Panthers Injury Report
Carolina could be thin at wideout and linebacker this week. David Gettis is questionable with a knee injury, while Louis Murphy is probable with a hamstring. Thomas Davis and Jon Beason are also both probable after sitting out Week 1 with leg injuries.
Running back Tauren Poole is also questionable with a concussion (via ESPN).
What They’re Saying
Izzy Gould of the Sun Sentinel reported that Miami isn’t handcuffed if the Hard Knocks cameras become a distraction:
Hershman said the Dolphins can tell the cameras to be turned off.— Izzy Gould (@IzzyGould) August 15, 2012
But let’s get real. Professional athletes? Choose to turn off cameras?
Hershman said there hasn't been a lot of turning off the cameras.— Izzy Gould (@IzzyGould) August 15, 2012
Jonathan Jones of the Charlotte Observer answered a question on the Panthers’ previously incompetent defense, claiming they look like they’ve improved—not that they could get worse, mind you.
Dolphins Player to Watch: Ryan Tannehill
Miami fans have to be hoping Tannehill outplays Matt Moore. While it’s always dangerous to throw a rookie passer into the fire, last season, Carolina showed the jump-start a rebuilding process can get if that rookie adjusts to the pro game quickly.
The Dolphins aren’t a playoff contender with Moore, so starting him doesn’t accomplish too much for the future.
Panthers Player to Watch: Luke Kuechly
Kuechly didn’t rack up the tackles like he did in college last week against the Houston Texans. He recorded just four, but he canceled out an inconsistent outing with a forced fumble.
If the young linebacker continues to be a playmaker and makes his presence felt stopping the run, Carolina should feel optimistic about its defense going into the season.
Key Matchup: Jake Long vs. Charles Johnson
This is the highest-caliber matchup of the contest by far.
Long is a four-time Pro Bowler. He’ll dominate most of the league’s defensive ends, but not Johnson. The Panthers’ right end has recorded 21.5 sacks over the past two years.
Long will attempt to keep Tannehill and Moore upright, while Johnson plans on wrecking the 'Phins’ QB competition.
On the Hot Seat: Joe Philbin
What?! He hasn’t coached a game yet?!
You never know with Stephen Ross.
If the Dolphins win less than four games this season, show no promise for the future and Jon Gruden and/or Bill Cowher announce they want to return to coaching, you better believe Ross will abandon Philbin in a heartbeat.
Both squads are coming off of extremely sloppy games. Carolina was less sloppy, though, and even with a few banged up wideouts, Miami won’t be able to keep pace.
David Daniels is a featured columnist at Bleacher Report and a syndicated writer.