Giants at Panthers: Three things to watch

The first preseason game is finally upon us, with kickoff set for 8 p.m. in Charlotte, N.C.

Here are three things to watch tonight:

THE STARTERS: The starters are expected to only play around 16 to 18 snaps. There are a few players to keep an eye on, starting with the offensive line, where Will Beatty is the new starting left tackle. David Baas is the new starting center, and we'll have to monitor how he works with Eli Manning.

Then there's Linval Joseph, who is trying to replace Barry Cofield at defensive tackle. Mathias Kiwanuka is also expected to start at strong-side linebacker. And you will get a glimpse of Jason Pierre-Paul as a starter at defensive end with Osi Umenyiora not expected to return to practice until next week.

THE KIDS: Linebacker Mark Herzlich makes his long-awaited NFL debut. It has been a long, hard and inspiring road to get here.

Watch all the young linebackers fighting for spots on the team. Herzlich; sixth-round picks Greg Jones and Jacquian Williams; and undrafted rookie Spencer Paysinger should see action tonight. The Giants also like young linebackers Kenny Ingram and Adrian Tracy.

And we get our first glimpse at three other rookies who have been impressive in camp: DT Marvin Austin, FB Henry Hynoski and safety Tyler Sash.

STEP UP: The Giants will have a nice competition at wide receiver to see who can step up into that third spot, behind Hakeem Nicks and Mario Manningham.

Domenik Hixon, Victor Cruz, Jerrel Jernigan, Devin Thomas, Darius Reynaud, Michael Clayton and Duke Calhoun are just a few of the receivers in the mix. Ramses Barden (PUP) is still injured.

The Giants will also be looking for standouts on special teams, where several of those young linebackers will hope to make an impact on coverage. Also, Matt Dodge and Steve Weatherford will go at it at punter, and Hixon and Jernigan will get a chance to return punts and kickoffs.