The Countdown to Zero: Carolina at N.Y. Giants Expectations

David ScercyCorrespondent IAugust 13, 2009

EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ - DECEMBER 21:  Running back Derrick Ward #34 of the New York Giants dives just short of the end zone in over time against the Carolina Panthers on December 21, 2008 at Giants Stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey. The Giants defeated the Panthers 28 to 34.  (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)

The Arizona Cardinals ended Carolina’s dream season in Charlotte roughly seven months ago, and the city has been itching for more since that heartbreaking defeat.

Monday night means more to Charlotte than a scrimmage. The Carolina’s are embracing Monday night with a little more passion than any pre-season game. Let’s face it, to the community of the Carolina Panthers, Monday’s game in N.Y. has a lot of meaning.

But to Coach Fox and the Carolina Panthers, this is simply put, the first pre-season game of the 2009 season. And don’t be surprised at all if the Panthers treat it like a pre-season game.

True, Carolina wants to win the game. In the fourth quarter players who normally wouldn’t be in an NFL game in the fourth quarter will be fighting it out for a “W”.

The Carolina Panthers return 21 of 22 starters in 2009 from a team that won 12 games in 2008. Something tells me that every one of those players remember their last game, a little more than the 16 before that one.

That being said, what is it we expect come kickoff Monday night? Here’s just a few of my expectations for this Monday night.

I expect to see a QB battle for No. 2 on the depth chart on this team. Matt Moore and Josh McCown should be competing for the backup spot to Jake Delhomme. McCown is the favorite, however Moore could very well possess the best arm in Panthers training camp.

I expect all eyes will be on Dwayne Jarrett as he continues to battle his way up the depth chart as he enters his third year since being drafted by Carolina out of USC. Jarrett should get the start Monday, as Steve Smith recovers from a shoulder injury suffered in camp.

I also expect Panther fans to keep an eye on Everette Brown, who should get quite a bit of playing time coming in with the No. 2 defense. Brown could be pressuring Brayton for the starting spot on the left side of the defensive line opposite Julius Peppers.

I expect the rookies to get evaluated by everyone involved with the Panther’s family.

Carolina drafted two defensive backs in 2009, Sherrod Martin out of Troy, and Captain Munnerlyn out of South Carolina. One of these rookies could become the Panthers’ nickel back behind starters Chris Gamble and Richard Marshall. The rookies may have to play at an extreme to beat out Dante Wesley for the spot.

The other rookies to keep an eye on include Mike Goodson (RB), Duke Robinson (OG), Tony Fiammetta (FB), Corvey Irvin (DT), and Gerald Cadogan (OT).

I expect second-year tight end, Gary Barnidge, to battle with Jeff King for the starting position. Barnidge is a guy who can open the field up for Jake Delhomme. I would hope they use him this pre-season, so Carolina fans can get a glimpse of the future TE position for the Panthers.

I expect all Panther fans to keep an eye on the starting offense, particularly the offensive line, and the running backs. It is anticipated that Carolina brings the best running game to the NFL in 2009, and we can’t wait to see these guys live up to the hype.

I expect every Panther fan in the world to watch the starting QB Jake Delhomme as he embarks on a campaign of redemption after a miserable performance against Arizona which abruptly ended Carolina’s season in 2008-09.

Jake has a lot to prove, and he may be on his last stand, despite signing a contract extension in the offseason.

But most of all, I expect Panther fans to just be happy to watch their team play some football.

This is a community full of expectations and passion. The Carolina Panthers from top to bottom carry one of the most talented teams in the NFL, and even for just one night, pre-season or not, we get to see this team take the field in preparation for another NFC South Divisional Championship.

How great would it be for Carolina to become the first back-to-back champion of the division?

After all, that’s what I expect.