Three things: Panthers-Bengals

Three things to watch for in Carolina’s preseason game against the Cincinnati Bengals on Thursday. Kickoff is set for 7 p.m. ET:

1. Cam Newton versus Cam Newton. Really, there is a way Newton still could lose out on being the opening-day starter at quarterback. He’d have to go into Cincinnati and throw four or five interceptions, mess up a few handoffs and look like he doesn’t know the offense. Anything less than a truly horrible performance and Newton will get the nod. The Panthers know Newton is their future and their future begins Sept. 11 in Arizona.

2. Newton’s chemistry with Steve Smith. It looks as if Smith will play this week after missing the first two exhibitions with a hand injury. Newton and Jimmy Clausen struggled without him as the other Carolina receivers failed to get consistent separation from defensive backs. We know Newton and Smith worked out together some in the offseason and before the hand injury. Still, it would be nice to see Newton gets a chance to throw a few passes Smith’s way in game conditions.

3. Rookie defensive tackles Sione Fua and Terrell McClain. The Panthers have had trouble stopping the run the last couple seasons and Reggie Bush was able to run between the tackles in the last preseason game. The Panthers had hoped that signing veteran free-agent Ron Edwards would solve all this, but he suffered an injury that’s expected to keep him out all season. Unless the Panthers find gold on the waiver wire, they might just turn the starting spots over to McClain and Fua. Both were picked in the third round and the Panthers might as well let them grow up together.