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Report: Mac Jones, Patriots starters expected to play against Panthers

Related: Where the Patriots’ camp competitions stand after joint practices with the Panthers

New York Giants v New England Patriots Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images

When asked earlier this week whether or not he plans on playing in the preseason game versus the Carolina Panthers, Mac Jones had a simple answer: “I hope so.”

It appears the New England Patriots’ starting quarterback will get his wish. According to a report by ESPN Boston’s Mike Reiss, Jones and the rest of the team’s healthy starters will indeed take the field against Carolina on Friday night.

Jones and the starting offense will therefore make their preseason debut after sitting out last week’s opener versus the New York Giants. With the exception of rookie left guard Cole Strange, who was on the field for two series, the entire starting lineup spent the game on the sidelines after going through a scaled-back warmup routine.

The same was true on defense: only a handful of projected starter-level or key rotational players such as linebackers Raekwon McMillan and Josh Uche actually played in that game last Thursday. The game against the Panthers, meanwhile, will also see the starters on this side of the ball see some increased opportunities.

While the Patriots will give their top-level lineups some snaps on Friday night, the Panthers are expected to rest most if not all of their starters.

“We plan on playing most of our twos and threes in this game,” head coach Matt Rhule said after Wednesday’s joint practice.

“We know they’re probably going to play their starters just because they played their twos and threes probably last game. I don’t know what they’re going to do, but we’ll play more of our younger guys trying to make the team. We have a lot of injuries right now, we lost a lot of guys with some soft-tissue stuff, so we’ll just see what kind of shape we’re in when we get the injury report.”

The preseason matchup between the Patriots and Panthers is coming after two days of joint practices. Tensions were high both days, with several players getting ejected — including New England’s Kendrick Bourne, Kristian Wilkerson and James Ferentz on Tuesday, and Deatrich Wise Jr. on Wednesday.

Time will tell whether preseason game No. 2 will follow a similar pattern. Kickoff is scheduled for 7 p.m. ET at Gillette Stadium.