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Game Preview – Panthers vs. Ravens

28 August 2009 Leave a comment

This is it. The preseason game that counts. (Does it really count though?)

Look for the starters to get a lot of playing time tomorrow night against Baltimore. We may even see Steve Smith suit up and play for the first time this year. I don’t look for DeAngelo Williams to get that much playing time though, with him nursing a slight knee injury and already looking in top shape, the Panthers don’t want to risk him getting seriously injured in a meaningless game. So look for Mike Goodson to try and prove his worth against one of the NFL’s toughest run defenses.

I hope the Panthers’ defense actually shows up and plays football tomorrow. I’m tired of seeing the vanilla schemes and no blitzing. I want to see some hard-nosed football. I’ve waited long enough, dang it. Let the defense hit people, please.

Tomorrow’s game will probably be the last chance for a few players to make the roster, and one that I will be watching is Ryne Robinson, who may have lost his spot after his inability to hang on to the ball on a punt return. He will get a chance to win the job, but I really believe his time in Carolina will be over, especially when there are other options at return man who have had a better preseason.

The Ravens have one of the best defensive units in the league, so they will be a great test for the offense to find out where they are this year. Hopefully the first team offense can at least put some drives together and put some points on the board, which against the Ravens is not an easy task to say the least.

Kickoff is at 8:00 in Charlotte.

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Categories: Game Previews, Preseason

Can the Panthers survive the injury bug?

26 August 2009 Leave a comment

The Panthers are playing shorthanded, plain and simple. Three of the most important cogs to the defensive unit have already suffered injuries this preseason, one of those injuries being season-ending.

These injuries will either cause major problems for the defensive unit this season, or it will inspire the reserve players to step up their game and make a positive impact on the 2009 Panthers season.

As of right now, the Panthers are without linebackers Thomas Davis and Jon Beason, safeties Nate Salley and Charles Godfrey, and defensive tackle Ma’ake Kemoeatu. Kemoeatu is out for the season after rupturing his achilles tendon on the first day of training camp, and the rest of the defensive injuries are of the 2-4 week variety.

The most important injury to keep an eye on is that of Beason, who is the leader of a defensive unit that is also trying to learn a completely new defensive scheme from first year (to the Panthers) coordinator Ron Meeks.

Without Beason, the Panthers are forced to use young linebacker Dan Connor to anchor the middle, and he seems to be up to the task and has played well so far in Beason’s absence. But, the leadership that Beason brings to the field will be missed the most while he is out of action for the next few weeks.

How will the Panthers respond to this latest flurry of injuries? Only time will tell, but I believe they will respond like most NFL teams do. Players will step up and fill voids, and everything will work out fine in the end.

Maybe it’s just my dumb loyalty talking, but I hope I’m right.

Categories: Player Injuries, Preseason

Beyond the box score – Panthers @ Dolphins

26 August 2009 Leave a comment

Well, the Panthers are now 0-2 in the preseason. Not that it really matters what the preseason record is, as we all know the most important part of the preseason games is the progression of the back-up players and the performance of the starters.

It is also important to avoid any major injuries during the preseason, something the Panthers have unfortunately been unable to do this season. In the Dolphins game Jon Beason was sidelined with a knee injury, and it has been discovered that he has a sprained MCL that will keep him out of action for the remainder of the preseason, and possible out of the first two regular season games.

Beason remains confident that he will be ready to go when the Eagles come to Charlotte to start the regular season, and we can only hope that he is right, because while Dan Connor has been a good addition to the defense so far, he doesn’t have the leadership skills or the energy that Beason has on the field.

The Panthers are also without the services of safety Charles Godfrey for a few weeks, who had surgery to repair a broken hand suffered in the Dolphins game. The Panthers have signed former Saints and Bengals safety Kevin Kaesviharn to give some depth to the position after the loss of Godfrey, and WR Jason Carter has been released to make room on the roster for Kaesviharn.

One of the positives that can be taken from the Dolphins game is the fact that the first team offense looked really solid. DeAngelo Williams looks like he is in midseason form already, and had a nice touchdown run in the second offensive possession. Delhomme looked better than he did against the Giants, but he is still not 100% ready for the start of the season (which I’m confident he will be).

The special teams unit didn’t play very well overall. The only bright spot in the return game was the nice punt return by Captain Munnerlyn that he almost took all he way, but he stepped out of bounds before he could make it to the end zone. Of course, he followed that brilliant return with a muffed punt later in the game (although he did recover it by stripping the ball under the pile).

The rest of the return game was pretty atrocious, and Ryne Robinson may have lost his roster spot by muffing the punt that ended up giving the Dolphins the game-deciding score in the 4th quarter.

With the emergence of Munnerlyn, Larry Beavers, and Mike Goodson in the return game and Kenny Watson as a potential #4 wide receiver, Robinson’s roster spot may be in jeopardy if he doesn’t improve significantly in the next two weeks.

The defense is still adjusting to the new scheme of coordinator Ron Meeks, so I didn’t expect a lot of noise from them. I do expect them to make tackles, though.

Tackling is one of the key components to defensive play, and that is something that needs to be done regardless of the defensive scheme that is being used. The guys shouldn’t have forgotten how to tackle, but it seems that they are having a hard time figuring that out based on the first two games.

I’m still going to hold on to the theory that the defense is saving all the hard core tackles for the regular season to avoid injury (partly because I’m hopeful that it’s not something worse – like the defense becoming effeminate during the offseason).

The “important” preseason game is coming up against the Ravens – and the Panthers need to show a little more progression if they are going to be successful this season. Hopefully the new defense will finally kick in, and the Panthers will start kicking ass and taking names this weekend.

Or, we could just be witnesses to another dose of vanilla gameplay.

Categories: Game Recaps, Preseason

Game Preview – Panthers @ Dolphins

22 August 2009 Leave a comment

After a disappointing effort in the preseason opener against the Giants, the Panthers will take the field in their 2nd game of the preseason tomorrow night when they take on the Miami Dolphins at Landshark Stadium (or whatever its name is now) in Miami.

It is ironic that the Panthers will be playing a 2nd straight opponent in the preseason that they will face at some point in the regular season (they play the Dolphins on 11/19 and the Giants on 12/27).

The starters will most likely see limited action like they did in the first game, although they will probably play the entire first quarter in this game. I expect the first team to be out of the game by the 2nd quarter, and the back-ups and fringe players will finish out the rest of the game.

I’m interested to see how well the back up QB’s play in this game. Hopefully the OL will give them more time to get off throws so a true evaluation of their abilities can be made, and hopefully they can learn to hold on to the football long enough to sustain drives to give the skill position players some reps.

Steve Smith will be traveling with the team to Miami, but it is still uncertain whether or not he will see any action. He is listed as a “game time decision” as of right now, and I expect him to spend his time on the sidelines cheering his teammates.

There is no reason to put him on the field and subject him to further injury in a meaningless game, especially when it’s Steve Smith – it’s not like he needs to learn how to run routes and catch passes.

DT Marlon Favorite should see a lot of time on the field since he has been out playing Nick Hayden in practice and should get a chance to take over the starting spot that has become vacant due to Kemoeatu’s season-ending injury.

RB Mike Goodson has been fined $7500 by the NFL for his “throat slash” gesture in the first preseason game after he scored a touchdown in the 2nd half against the Giants. I’m sure that this fine, along with the woodshed treatment he got from head coach John Fox, will be enough to ensure that such a gesture doesn’t happen again.

I don’t expect the Panthers to show any unique schemes on either side of the ball, mainly because they play the Dolphins again in the regular season and don’t want to give them any game-plan material when the game actually counts. Look for this to be another vanilla-flavored game for the Panthers.

Categories: Game Previews, Preseason

Beyond the box score – Panthers @ Giants

19 August 2009 1 comment

The Panthers have now played their first game of the 2009 preseason, and even though they lost 24-17 to the Giants, there are still a lot of aspects to the game that are much more important than the final score.

The main reason for having preseason games (other than the obvious reason of getting players in shape) is to evaluate the players on the roster to determine depth charts and roster spots.

The Panthers are pretty much set on the starting lineups, with 21 of 22 starters returning from last season, but there are a lot of guys battling for spots on the roster.

After watching the first preseason game I went back and looked at the game stats for the Panthers, and have come to several conclusions about this team and some of the guys who are trying to make the roster or move up on the depth chart.

While most of the stats for the starters can be ignored because they only played the first quarter, it is still helpful to look at what they were able to accomplish because it helps determine how much progress is being made in training camp.

With that being said, the starting unit for the Panthers did not impress me that much last night. There were some bright spots, such as DeAngelo Williams already looking like he’s ready to take the field and rush for 100+ yards and 3 TD’s, but overall the starters looked like they were still shaking off the rust from the long offseason.

The biggest problems were with the offensive and defensive lines. The offensive line couldn’t provide Jake Delhomme enough time to throw the ball, and the defensive line couldn’t stop the Giants’ running attack. It must be noted that the Giants have one of the best defenses in the league, but I would expect the offensive line to do a better job than they did last night.

I hope that it was just a “first preseason game” issue instead of a sign of things to come, because if they play like they did last night for the majority of the season, then Delhomme will be spending a lot of time picking himself up off the turf.

Even though Delhomme didn’t play up to standard, he wasn’t as bad as Josh McCown, who was absolutely brutal in his brief time in the game. McCown looked totally lost on the field, and was unable to do anything positive. He threw an interception and lost a fumble, and was only able to complete 3 of 6 passes for 29 yards.

McCown should be prepared for a tough battle for the #2 QB position, because even though Matt Moore didn’t fare much better against the Giants’ defense, he didn’t look as bad as McCown did. Also, Hunter Cantwell looked good in the 2nd half and could compete for the #3 spot on the depth chart. (I know that he was playing against the 3rd string defense, but still – he looked pretty good.)

I was interested to see how Mike Goodson would play, and I was impressed with what I saw. Even though he coughed the ball up two times, he impressed me with his speed and ability to avoid tackles in the open field. He makes good cuts and gets through holes in the defense well, but if he can’t hold on to the ball then he won’t make the roster – so he needs to work on that if he wants to be a part of the 2009 squad.

DeCori Birmingham, Jamall Lee, and Tony Fiametta played as well as expected in the limited action they saw, as all of them are looking at making the squad on special teams barring any injuries, with the possible exception of Fiametta who should be expected to battle Brad Hoover for the starting FB position.

The receivers failed to impress last night as well, though it can’t be totally blamed on them because the QB’s weren’t able to get off decent throws. And, it must also be noted that Muhsin Muhammad saw limited action and Steve Smith didn’t play any snaps at all, so there wasn’t much expectation from the receiving corps anyway.

Dwayne Jarrett was the only receiver expected to do anything, and the only thing he did was let everyone down with another mediocre performance. Kenneth Moore shined the brightest out of the bunch, making a few great catches in traffic and showing his great route running abilities.

Gary Barnridge made his case for the 2nd TE position last night, and Dante Rosario looked like Rosario Dawson out on the field, whiffing on a few key blocks that led to sacks (which has been his downfall since he’s been with the Panthers).

If Barnridge can show that he is able to throw good blocks consistently, the TE position is his. I don’t see Rosario over taking him on the depth chart any time soon, and Rosario may even find himself looking for a job at the end of preseason if he can’t improve his mediocre at best blocking skills.

Defensively, there is a lot of room for improvement. I will hold off on any judgment of the defense right now because I acknowledge that they are still learning a completely new defensive scheme from new coordinator Ron Meeks, but the inability to tackle the ball carrier is something that must be fixed immediately, or it will be a long season.

The Giants’ running backs were able to run all over the defenders for the entire game, proving that the loss of DT Ma’ake Kemoeatu will be costly if no one steps up to fill the run-stopping role that he provided.

Even though the defense looked pretty bland overall, I was impressed by the young corps of linebackers (Dan Connor and Mortty Ivy specifically), and they look like they can provide some depth in the middle for Thomas Davis and Jon Beason – something that the Panthers will need if they want to make any type of run at the postseason.

Special Teams is another area that needs some work. There are the constants of John Kasay, Rhys Lloyd, and Jason Baker but the return positions are wide open. Ryne Robinson looks to have an edge as of right now, but Larry Beavers and Mike Goodson could challenge him for that spot in the next few weeks.

Robinson and Beavers could also be competing for a 5th receiver position, so that competition may have more than one meaning behind it, and could get intense as the preseason goes along.

Overall the Panthers look like they have the potential to be a good football team this year, but there are just a few areas that need some work. But, at the end of the day it was a mildly successful first game of the preseason (even though they lost) and the team should improve as the preseason moves along.

At least we hope they will improve.

Categories: Game Recaps, Preseason

Game Recap – Giants 24 Panthers 17

18 August 2009 Leave a comment

The first preseason game has come and gone, and unfortunately the Panthers weren’t able to come out on top (not that the score really matters, but it would have been nice to come away with a win).

Here are just a few things I noticed in tonight’s game.

  1. The first team offense needs more reps. I know it was just the first game of the preseason and Smith and Stewart didn’t play, but they need more reps to solidify the offensive attack.
  2. The defense needs to learn how to stop the run. They didn’t do a great job at that tonight. Jacobs and Bradshaw ran at will against the first team defense – that’s not a good sign.
  3. Josh McCown needs to be the 4th QB on the depth chart – he looked brutal tonight, while Matt Moore and Hunter Cantwell had decent showings (considering the defense they were playing against).
  4. Mike Goodson needs to put some glue on his hands. Other than his penchant for coughing up the ball, he makes good cuts and looks good in open space – but holding on to the ball is vital.

Overall, I thought the Panthers played pretty decent football other than the turnovers and the first team’s inability to stop the run. (I know that sounds crazy, but there were some bright spots.) It was good to see some of the younger guys get playing time, and I’m sure we will learn more about them as the preseason continues.

I will break down this game in more depth over the next few days after I’ve had time to sit down and analyze everything, but at first glance the Panthers look like they are on the right track to a successful season.

Categories: Game Recaps, Preseason

Game Preview – Panthers @ Giants

17 August 2009 Leave a comment

The time has finally come!!! The official start of the 2009-2010 NFL season (for the Panthers) takes place tonight when the Panthers take on the New York Giants in the first preseason game for both squads.

With this game being the first for both teams, there probably won’t be a lot of action from the starters, but there should be at least 1 quarter of action for the 1st teams with the other 3 quarters being played by the 2nd and 3rd units and the guys desperately trying to make the roster.

The Panthers will most likely be without the services of WR Steve Smith tonight, who has missed a week of practice with an injured shoulder (although everyone thought he would miss the entire preseason), and RB Jonathan Stewart, who has been bothered by a sore achilles tendon and has missed several days of practice.

The potential absence of Smith gives WR Dwayne Jarrett plenty of opportunity to prove himself useful as he will be penciled in the offense in the first half. Jarrett needs to take this opportunity and have a good showing, because he has been a major disappointment in his first two seasons with the Panthers when everyone had such high hopes for him after his two All-American seasons at USC.

Mike Goodson will also have an opportunity to shine tonight to with the absence of Stewart. Goodson, the rookie running back from Texas A&M, who has been highly praised by teammates, coaches, and fans during camp. (I look for him to get a lot of playing time at kick returner, something the Panthers could definitely use.)

Matt Moore will get another chance to prove himself as the quarterback of the future in the preseason this year, something he has yet to do since he was claimed off waivers from the Cowboys in 2007.

Moore played well in his 3 starts at the end of 2007 when Jake Delhomme underwent season-ending elbow surgery, but he hasn’t been able to show the ability to be “the guy” to replace Delhomme since that time. This is his chance to step up and show he is the QB of the future, and I am interested to see what he does with the opportunity.

It will also be interesting to see how the defense responds to the new scheme introduced to them by new Defensive Coordinator Ron Meeks. Meeks, the former coordinator of the Indianapolis Colts, has introduced the infamous “Tampa 2” scheme to the Panthers defensive unit in hopes to improve the teams defense, which ranked 18th in the league last season (and 9th out of 12 playoff teams).

The Giants will be preparing for another run at the NFC East title and should provide a great contest for the Panthers, who will be looking to repeat as champions of the NFC South and post the first back-to-back winning seasons in franchise history.

The game will be televised nationally on ESPN at 8:00 PM EST.

Categories: Game Previews, Preseason