Sports Business Insider Rick Horrow will be in Charlotte watching the Patriots take on the Panthers at Bank of America Stadium on Friday, and he, like many watching in the stadium and around the country, will be keenly interested in one thing above all else: Can Jimmy Garoppolo be a starter in this league?

Yes, with Tom Brady’s status in doubt for the first four games of the season, the defending Super Bowl champions may have to put their trust in the second-year, second-round pick out of Eastern Illinois.

Not to make the (preseason) moment bigger than it is, but Friday is a huge game for Garoppolo, who, as a rookie, completed 19-of-27 passes (70.4 percent) for 182 yards and a touchdown.

“Well, we have to see if he’s any good, and we’re also going to see if there’s going to be a settlement anytime soon with Judge Berman,” Horrow said on CBS Sports Radio’s Ferrall on the Bench. “You know what we missed this week? The Berman stuff and the hearings. Thankfully I think we’ve got until the end of next week to have him push for a settlement, but your point is really well taken. We’re going to see not only if he’s the heir apparent to Brady long term, but is he going to start and is he going to do well? So I’m anxious to see the game. I’m kind of looking forward to it.”

While the Patriots don’t know if their quarterback can throw to his receivers, the Panthers don’t know who their quarterback is going to throw to. Cam Newton is considered by many to be one of the top young quarterbacks in the NFL, but he’ll be without his top receiver this season, as Kelvin Benjamin tore his ACL in practice. Benjamin had 73 catches for 1,008 yards and nine touchdowns last season.

Not counting Greg Olsen, a tight end, the Panthers’ top returning receiver is Jerricho Cotchery, who last year had 48 catches for 580 yards and one touchdown.

Who the heck is Cam going to throw to this season?

“That’s what all the press is talking about today and yesterday,” Horrow said. “With Benjamin out, nobody counted on that. Ironically, last week there were articles in the Carolina press saying Cam Newton is doing a better job of leading his receivers, staying in the pocket, not taking off, not running – not being RG3 – and now his receivers go down.”

It’ll be interesting to see if the Patriots and Panthers can repeat as division champions with so much uncertainty in the passing game.

Horrow, meanwhile, will be in Charlotte on Friday and in Miami on Saturday for the Falcons/Dolphins game. This weekend marks the final slate of meaningful preseason games (if you can, in fact, call preseason games meaningful).

“Usually the Week 3 games are interesting not just because you don’t want anybody to get hurt, but there are some storylines,” Horrow said. “This year, I think there are more storylines than ever, and then Sept. 3 – that Thursday – nobody plays. Everybody plays in the league, but nobody plays. So this will be the last few days of good preseason football, if that’s not a contradiction.”


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