Bryan Strickland Senior Writer
CHARLOTTE, NC September 13, 2013 – A trio of potentially pivotal players that weren’t able to contribute in the Panthers’ season opener are expected to be ready for Sunday’s game at the Buffalo Bills.
Left guard Amini Silatolu, strong safety Mike Mitchell and wide receiver Domenik Hixon are listed as probable for the Bills game after fully participating in practice for the second consecutive day Friday.
As expected, Barner (foot) and Dockery (thumb) will miss their second consecutive game. But the other six Panthers to miss some practice time this week are all listed as probable.
Rivera said Silatolu, who started all but one game at left guard as a rookie in 2012, should start against the Bills, with Chris Scott taking over at right guard following Garry Williams‘ season-ending knee injury suffered against Seattle.
“We have to just in terms of the development of that unit,” Rivera said. “We can’t expect Amini to come in right away and play 60 plays; that would be foolish on our part. It’s the same way with Chris Scott, who is working his way into a comfort zone with us. The further we go along in the season, the more plays he’ll be able to play in a row.”
Rivera wasn’t ready to say if Mitchell, coming back from a calf injury, would immediately regain his starting role at strong safety. In his absence last week, Quintin Mikell manned the spot six days after signing with the Panthers.
“They’re both going to play,” Rivera said. “We’ll continue to evaluate it, and then Sunday we’ll have a feel for the direction we’re going to head and how we’re going to rotate these guys.”
Hixon, returning from a hamstring injury, could immediately be in the mix for snaps at receiver behind Steve Smith and Brandon LaFell. While Smith led the Panthers with six catches for 51 yards against the Seahawks, Ted Ginn had the only other reception for the receivers. Now Hixon and a healthier Armanti Edwards could factor more prominently into the Panthers’ plans.
Rivera said the goal again this week is to get linebacker Jon Beason, still working his way back from knee surgery, somewhere between 25 and 35 snaps. Chase Blackburn could see some snaps in the base package, and Beason will again be limited in obvious passing situations, but he’s still headed in the right direction.
“He hasn’t gotten much chance to play a lot of football, but I’ll take that guy that played the first three quarters last week,” Rivera said. “He’s getting there, getting in shape and even better in football shape. I’m excited for him.”
The Bills could be without a couple of key cogs in their secondary for the second consecutive week. Pro Bowl safety Jairus Byrd is listed as doubtful with a foot injury, and former University of South Carolina cornerback Stephon Gimore is out with a wrist injury.
Rookie speedster Marquise Goodwin, who returned a kickoff 107 yards for a touchdown in the preseason, is out with a hand injury.